Take Your Organization to the Next Level with the Cloud

  9/22/17    Posted in News

What exactly is the Cloud? The Cloud refers to software and services that run on the internet instead of locally on your computer. The Cloud allows you to access your information on any device with an internet connection with remote servers handling most of the storage and computing.

The term was coined decades ago in Houston when a group of technology executives began discussing the future of the Internet business and began calling it Cloud computing.

Although it has been named the Cloud, your information is stored in an actual place. Benefits of migrating to the Cloud include improved flexibility, increased storage and reduced costs.

 

Experts seem to agree that Cloud computing will ultimately transform today’s computing landscape.

These Cloud computing services enable an enterprise to expand its infrastructure, add capacity on demand, or outsource the whole infrastructure, resulting in a wider choice of computing resources.

There is an array of available Cloud computing services, but most fall into one of the following categories which include:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): This type of Cloud computing delivers applications through your internet browser. One of the most popular SaaS applications for business is Microsoft’s Office 365. These types of applications offer extensive configuration options as well as development environments that enable customers to code their own modifications and additions. Many businesses leverage SaaS to run websites, complete computing and conduct big data analysis.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS is an instant computing infrastructure that can be quickly scaled. A pay per use model, IaaS offers a full array of services offered by all major public cloud providers which is staggering: highly scalable databases, virtual private networks, big data analytics, developer tools, machine learning and application monitoring.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): Provides services and workflows that specifically target developers who can use shared tools and processes to accelerate the development, resting and deployment of applications.
  • Function as a Service (FaaS): This allows developers to upload blocks of code and set them to be triggered by a specific event such as submitting a form or uploading a file. These applications consume no IaaS resources until after an event occurs so pay per use fees are reduced.
  • Private Cloud: This uses technologies used to run IaaS public Clouds that and be operated and deployed into customer’s data center. It decreases the amount of manual provisioning and management. It allows organizations to store protected data and maintain the ability to leverage resources from the public cloud while increasing flexibility.
  • Hybrid Cloud: The hybrid cloud is the integration of a private Cloud with a public Cloud. It creates environments in which applications can move easily between private and public Clouds.
  • Public Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): Public APIs offer developers application functionality that can be assessed programmatically. It also enables customers to access data or application functionality. A public Cloud and private infrastructure within this model communicate over an encrypted connection.
  • Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS): This platform enables users to implement data mapping, transformations and workflows. It is used for building and deploying integrations within the cloud and between the cloud and an enterprise. iPaaS is scalable and has the ability to meet the increased data volume from mobile and other environments with minimum disruption.
  • Identity as a Service (IDaaS): This platform manages user identity and authenticates users and enables access to both resources and applications. The key capabilities required to make enterprise solutions possible are single sign-on, multi factor authentication, access security, directory and provisioning. The increased security allows companies to reduce the possibility of a data breach.

Most enterprises have complex IT environments that include a mix of on-premise, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS Applications.

 

Strategizing Your Cloud Migration

 

To achieve scalability, cost-efficiency and higher application performance, many organizations choose to migrate to the Cloud. Although there are many benefits to embarking on this initiative, migration can be a complex process however, the team at VALiNTRY.

The 6 most common application migration strategies are referred to as the 6 R’s. These include:

  • Rehosting: Many applications are rehosted when an organization has a large legacy migration scenario and needs to scale quickly
  • Replatforming: There is no need to change the core architecture of an application, an organization must only make a few optimizations
  • Repurchasing: This occurs when an organization is moving to a different product
  • Refactoring: A company is rethinking how an application is architected and developed
  • Retire: Turn off any part of an IT portfolio that is no longer useful
  • Retain: If some applications don’t need to be migrated or one was recently upgraded, you can revisit it at a later time

 

Choosing a Cloud Provider

 

From startups to industry leaders, there are hundreds of options to choose from when deciding which Cloud provider to use. It’s important to have mapped out your company objectives to ensure that a provider understands your business and how to help your organization achieve its goals by migrating to the Cloud. Business objectives can include:

  • Scaling Applications
  • Boosting Productivity
  • Facilitating Collaboration
  • Going Global
  • Protecting Data
  • Empowering Innovation
  • Managing Infrastructure
  • Backing Up Reliably

Learn the business advantages that can be gained like higher customer retention, not just technical gains.

Cost and security also need to be considered when choosing a provider. The location of a Cloud provider’s data centers can be imperative. For example, if an application is very sensitive, it should be at a location near users to ensure the best user experience possible. When a provider hosts data also depending security and compliance regulations can vary based on location.

The Cloud provider should also have a formal management structure, established risk management policies, and a process for assessing third-party service providers and vendors.

An organization’s principles are also important. At VALiNTRY, our team lives our core values. From honesty to integrity and transparency, a Cloud provider should be completely forthcoming with any and all information your organization would like to know. Trust is imperative.

 

The Benefits of Using Microsoft as Your Cloud Provider

 

A provider that VALiNTRY recommends using is Microsoft. A technology giant, Microsoft is a trusted, global and hybrid provider.

 

90% of Fortune 500 companies trust the Microsoft Cloud.

 

Microsoft has data centers in over 30 regions across the world to help provide an optimized user experience for your customers. It also is a complete Cloud solution, enabling businesses to leverage existing IT investments and globally scaled public cloud offerings.

Microsoft Azure is a collection of constantly growing integrated Cloud services that enables developers and IT professionals to build, deploy and manage applications globally. It provides a consistent portal experience while leveraging highly integrated cloud services.

Microsoft Azure also allows your organization to build and deploy anywhere with your choice of applications, frameworks and tools that you choose.

 

Migrating to the Cloud with a Microsoft Partner

 

VALiNTRY is a Microsoft Partner and our affiliation allows us to blend our unique portfolio of client counseling expertise with Microsoft’s array of advanced creative and support products and services.

As a Microsoft Partner, our team is able to help clients gain access to exclusive offerings, reduce costs and generate a consistent revenue stream. It also ensures that we receive the latest technical training and get insight into product usage. From initial concepts and designs to launch and maintenance, our team will ensure your business operations run as smoothly as possibly by enhancing your existing applications.

 

 

 

 

The Top Takeaways From The Equifax Hack

  9/18/17    Posted in News

Over 143 million Americans have been affected by a cyber attack at Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency. Experts say it may never be possible to calculate the exact number of people affected by these cyber thieves.

Equifax cyber criminals managed to steal social security numbers, names, addresses and drivers licenses, data dubbed as the crown jewels of identification. Ensure that your organization networks, computers, programs and data are protected from a cyber attack, damage or unauthorized access with the help of the experts at VALiNTRY.

Identifying the Cause of the Cyber Attack

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Equifax is one of the nation’s three largest credit bureaus. The company collects and aggregates the information of consumers and businesses across the globe. Employing over 9,000 employees and boasting over 3 billion dollars in revenue, how did such a corporate giant fall victim to a cyber attack?

In March 2017, a massive server bug was identified which now months later, provided a means for hackers to attack. Most organizations would understand the magnitude of these issues and immediately begin installing patches and securing their servers. The compromise in March stemmed from Equifax failing to install security updates when necessary. This vulnerability provided cyber attackers 24 hours to exploit the flaw while taking control of webservers, downloading data and installing malware.

Equifax utilized Apache Struts, created by the Apache Foundation, a popular server software that many large companies utilize including Fortune 100 organizations such as Lockheed Martin, Citigroup, Vodafone, Virgin Atlantic, Reader’s Digest and the IRS. Apache struts use as a framework which allows developers to easily build custom websites. However, its all-in-one approach can also be a weakness.

 

Ron Winward, a security researcher for Radware states,

“The software touches all aspects of a company’s website, once you break in through one window you can get in to the rest of the house — and the rest of the houses in the neighborhood.”

 

The problem for Equifax, is that the flaws in STRUTS has been widely documented. Although the Apache Foundation has been proactive in deploying fixes that patching the vulnerability, Equifax did not patch the identified flaws to the best of its ability.

Although Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith has said, “we will make changes,” and has offered affected consumers a year of free credit monitoring and waived credit freeze fees for the next 30 days, businesses and consumers may be weary to use their services again.

What can happen when this information gets into the hands of cyber criminals? Cyber criminals can open bank accounts, lines of credit, new credit cards and drivers’ licenses in your name and recovering from identity theft could take months or even years.

 

What Happens To Identity Fraud Victims

When most identity fraud occurs, victims are left wondering, do they have to pay back any expenses incurred from the thieves? When the identity theft involves a debit or credit card, losses are limited under the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.

 

The Fair Credit Billing Act caps liability for unauthorized credit card purchases at $50 while for stolen ATM and debit cards, liability depends on how quickly a person reports the loss or theft.

 

In the case that your identity has been stolen, immediately take these 5 steps:

  1. Put fraud alert on your credit reports: A fraud alert puts a red flag on your credit report and notifies lenders and creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. Another option and an effective identity theft prevention measure, is to place a security freeze on each of your credit reports. A freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit reports.
  2. Contact affected institutions directly: If your ATM card was stolen, contact the bank directly. In the case of a credit card being stolen, report the theft to the issuer of the credit card.
  3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): By filing a police report and an Identity Theft Affidavit, the FTC will help you understand and identify what type of fraud was committed and what to do next.
  4. Protect your social security number: In the event that your social security number was stolen, contact Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), even if you don’t yet see any evidence of financial fraud.
  5. Contact the Post Office: If you have reason to believe the identity thief may have submitted a fraudulent change-of-address to the post office or has used the U.S. mail to commit the fraud against you, contact the Postal Inspection Office.

 

Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst states, “Cyberwar is in large part conducted through data mining and cyber intelligence. This is also a Homeland Security risk as enemy nation states build databases of Americans that they then use to get to their targets, for example a network operator at a power grid, or a defense contractor at a missile defense company.”

 

If you own a small to mid sized business, don’t think that your organization is immune to cyber attacks.

According to Symantec, over 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses.

 

Experts believe this is because most larger companies are constantly updating their security and smaller business are seen as an easier target to cyber criminals because they have less resources to put in high end cyber security protection. In a recent survey conducted by CNBC, only 2% of small businesses said they viewed a cyberattack as the most critical issue that they face. Why should these organizations care?

 

60 percent of these smaller companies will go out of business within 6 months of a cyber attack.

Protecting Your Business with Cyber Security

Cyber attack strategies are getting more sophisticated on a daily basis, however there are some effective ways to help protect your business:

  • Get cyber security insurance: Cyber liability insurance protects your business from various cyber security threats. If your company is held liable due to a breach occuring, this insurance will help in the case of a lawsuit.
  • Create a password strategy: Road names, pets, most employees utilize simple passwords, leaving your organization vulnerable to cyber hackers. ?Employees should be required to create passwords that include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, along with numbers and symbols while resetting their passwords at least once a month.
  • Utilize virtual data rooms (VDR): These rooms allow for employees to safely and easily share data. From tax paper work to financial information and legal documentation, VDR’s help keep sensitive information safe.
  • Identify internal threats: Most cyber security issues that occur are a result of someone inside of your company. Be aware of what sensitive information is accessible.

 

Protect your business by starting with a technology audit from the experts at VALiNTRY. Our team will examine your security practices and network to identify vulnerabilities. Our security expert consultant Xavier Harris is a CISSP, with experience managing both local and global initiatives. His expertise is in creating and implementing IT architecture that ensure cyber security. From enterprise risk and compliance to incident management and penetration testing, our team will help your business mitigate risk factors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Your Organization Needs A Trusted Advisor

  9/14/17    Posted in News

Relationship building is a critical component is in a longstanding, mutualistic relationship. To experience enduring success your organization must identify a trusted advisor who can help you navigate challenging situations and offer solutions. The role of trusted advisor means putting the client’s interests first, being invested in their business and being a credible source for them to rely on.

So, what is the best way to grow your business? Identify a trusted advisor.

 

Defining The Role of a Trusted Advisor

When a prospect is searching for a particular agency to work with to help them meet their needs, the answer is not always simple. However, it is important to identify an organization that can provide a trusted advisor. A trusted advisor understands the pressure that clients face to grow their organizations and to meet financial goals. They will ask the client about their aspirations and long-term needs and help generate ways for them to accomplish those goals.

Trusted advisors must have the unique ability to see the big picture. On a daily basis, they must learn new skills, find answers and develop strategies to help their clients succeed. They see things from a fresh perspective and will challenge your assumptions.?Their role, is to do everything necessary to help your business thrive. In doing so, trusted advisors must leverage their expertise to help the management make informed business decisions. A trusted advisor should help your organization think through decisions while providing supporting information but leave the final decision up to you and your team.

Trusted advisors have a large potential to impact your organization. Trusted advisors help to:

  • Provide more complete solutions
  • Accelerate business development
  • Help organizations create a competitive advantage

 

What are some qualities that clients look for in a trusted advisor? Results from one survey convey that 48 percent of research participants said that “great communication skills” are a trusted-advisor behavior that their top consultants possess that their average performers don’t.

It also found that, “putting the client first” was brought up as a differentiator by 24% of the participants.

Participants listed the traits most important to them when identifying a trusted advisor:

  • Understanding
  • Consistency
  • Ability to remain calm
  • Reliability
  • Disciplined
  • Provide reasoning

To become a trusted business advisor, an organization must couple the delivery of data with interpretation and sound business advice. The end goal should be helping clients meet their needs and understand how these were met rather than just reviewing them. To do this, trusted advisors must:

 

  • Immerse themselves in your culture: From messaging to products and solutions, in order to provide sound advice and guidance trusted advisors must understand a company from the ground up.
  • Provide solutions: Avoid selling. Instead be proactive and provide solutions that clients may not have even anticipated yet.
  • Show examples of success: Demonstrate how they have achieved success for previous clients and leverage that for your company.
  • Deliver on what is promised: Meet deadlines and budgets and always follow up as promised. Trusted advisors should help your organization achieve set goals through strategic advice.

 

Trusted advisors have the experience, training, knowledge and subject matter expertise to advise your company. They have the keen ability to diagnose business problems and recommend the right solutions to improve your situation. Trusted advisors should make your team feel comfortable to reach for advice and accept or decline recommendations.

For example, trusted advisors don’t just provide data to a client and hope their client will be able to interpret it. A trusted advisor will include a written report that explains in plain language the metrics most important to the success of that company and answer any other questions that may arise. A trusted advisor should also be transparent, explaining rationale in why certain avenues are being recommended.

Conversations should also focus on the few, key performance indicators of your business and its wider industry. Interactions with should be informal, so that your team feels welcome to ask questions. Then based on these questions, trusted advisors can provide substantive advice to help grow your business.

The Importance of Values

One of the things that distinguishes VALiNTRY is that our business model is based upon our values. Our inverted organization structure, depicted in our logo as an green, inverted triangle, puts our clients, consultants and employees first while management is at the foundation supporting the team.

 

Our values include:

  • People Service: Enriching and serving our clients and employees
  • Accountability: Being accountable and responsible to commitments and results
  • Teamwork: Working together to support our team and client for the greater good
  • Honesty and Integrity: Doing the right things, the right way
  • Innovation: Pushing beyond our comfort zones to seek new solutions for ourselves and our clients
  • Transparency: Sharing the why and the outcomes of the things that our organization does

 

So how does your organization make an informed decision? Identify your organizational goals, then begin researching and interviewing. It is important to consider:

  • Reputation: Contact references and conduct research to identify any concerns
  • Expertise: Determine how expansive their id knowledge in your particular industry
  • Capabilities: Identify the amount of experience that they have with companies of your size

 

Constantly putting our clients first while empowering our employees to deliver unparalled service allows our team members to become reliable, trusted advisors for your organization.

There are also many benefits of utilizing a trusted advisor, which include:

  • Save your organization money
  • Conduct assessments to determine areas of weakness and provide solutions
  • Educate members of your team
  • Ensure the compliance of your business

 

Our team members understand that earning the title of a trusted advisor is a privilege and should never be jeopardized. At VALiNTRY, our team understands that it takes a long time to achieve that level of confidence and just mere minutes to lose.

 

20 Tips to Prepare your Business for Hurricane Irma

  9/8/17    Posted in News

As the southeastern United States braces itself for the impending impact of Hurricane Irma, our team has created a checklist to help your organization prepare and minimize the storm’s impact on your business. A category 5 hurricane with winds up to 180 MPH, there are a wide array of challenges that may arise when the storm makes landfall. If your business doesn’t already have a disaster recovery plan in process, utilize our checklist to aid in preparation of the storm.

  1. Define your organization’s most critical assets
  2. Identify the items that are most important to your organization including:
    • Computer servers that are mission critical
    • Computer workstations
    • Local computer account passwords
    • Vendor information
  3. Determine how long your organization thinks that it will take to recover from the hurricane
  4. Take inventory of your business assets
  5. In the case of a power outage, determine which business functions should be back online first
  6. Plan on what is needed to ensure the safe recovery of mission critical systems
  7. Identify an alternate storage location if your infrastructure needs to be relocated
  8. Create an accurate network diagram to help guide technicians that may have to reconstruct your network at an alternate site
  9. Determine a plan for communicating with employees
  10. Plan the how to keep your network running
  11. Identify a back plan if there is a system failure and your organization has to go manual
  12. Establish a telephone number for employees and clients to call to determine if work is open
  13. Identify who will be on call at your organization
  14. Unplug and cover all electronic equipment, including phones and computers, with dry bags to keep them dry and unaffected from moisture
  15. Bring any laptops or portable devices home
  16. Bolt down servers
  17. Contact your IT vendor or internal IT staff to ensure all your files are secure in an off site storage facility or service
  18. Prepare to document anything that has been damaged after the storm
  19. Move items away from the windows
  20. Remain calm

 

If you organization is working with local vendors, communicate with them to understand what their plan is for the storm. Remember our team is here to assist you in any way and utilize our checklist to help ensure that business is as prepared as possible.

Strategic Ways to Build Your Technology Roadmap

  9/1/17    Posted in News

A digital transformation?is a well-planned journey and to successfully navigate it, an organization needs to devise a digital roadmap. A digital roadmap is utilized to define, manage and launch digital touch points. This sophisticated project plan details durations and dependencies of all the initiatives within the digital strategy. It also provides checkpoints for assessing the progress and success of each initiative in the future. Customers are demanding new experiences, partners want greater access and employees want additional convenience and a digital transformation helps to facilitate this. So, embrace the challenge of digital disruption and continue to create value with the help if a strategic roadmap.

According to study conducted by Forrester, only 27% of businesses have a coherent digital strategy for creating customer value in place.

Ensure that your business stays relevant and thrives in this competitive landscape with a well thought out roadmap.

A digital transformation is all about business outcomes. The most effective roadmaps are those that are aligned with business strategy from both the top down, blending overall goals the latest technology trends. Building a great digital roadmap is understanding how to maximize reusability of these components and services.

Starting to navigate your Digital Transformation

Each organization is unique with its own culture and goals and because of this, each business must create a roadmap unique to its needs. When developing a digital roadmap, it is important to ensure that achievable, realistic and major milestones associated with each project throughout the journey.

Digital roadmap and strategy should focus on yielding tangible results for an organization, these may include:

  • Maximizing return on investment of products and services
  • Amplifying efficiency
  • Reducing costs
  • Enriching customer and employee experiences
  • Developing a proactive cyber security strategy
  • Creating a more nimble enterprise
  • Respond to evolving customer preferences

As an organization begins to create their roadmap, many questions must be considered, these include:

  • Where do we want to get to with our digital channels?
  • What are the major milestones between where we are now and where we want to be?
  • What is each initiative going to cost?
  • Where are the barriers and dependencies?
  • How do we measure ROI?
  • What does success look like?

It is important to remember to focus on outcomes not just specific technologies. This is because technologies are changing at rapid pace and an organization’s roadmap must evolve with them.

When developing a digital roadmap, businesses should take into account 7 pieces of strategy. These being business goals, business initiatives, features and fixes, user stories, components and services:

  • Business goals:?Measurable achievements that a roadmap will help to accomplish
  • Business initiatives:?Specific projects that are leveraged to achieve business goals
  • Features and fixes: Outputs from the digital delivery team used by the project teams driving business initiatives.
  • User stories:?Pieces of work that convey individual user journeys or workflows, bundled in a way that is convenient for software engineers to build
  • Components:?Software modules that create an intuitive user interface or application programming interface to fulfill user stories
  • Services:?Data flows blended together to feed the components described above with the information they need to fulfill their functions

Investing wisely in the Digital Transformation

Many organizations are eager to invest in the newest, shiniest technology, however the latest technology doesn’t meant that a business is now prepared to remain competitive, grow and thrive. It has to be the right technology. For a roadmap to be successful, it is important to understand that the technology used will change and evolve with the needs of your organization and customers. For your roadmap to be functional it must be:

  • Responsive: The ability to modify tactics in response to what is being learned through research and measurement throughout your organizations journey.
  • Aligned: An organization’s roadmap is working in tandem with and support of a businesses overall strategy.
  • Human centered: Prioritizing and measuring initiatives that is aimed at specifically impacting specific customer behaviors.
  • Democratized: Ensure that a roadmap is visible and available across all teams to ensure transparency and welcome contributions from team members.

A digital roadmap is all about embracing new capabilities, not necessarily new projects. From major data systems to data analytics plans and implementation, there are many components to consider when creating a technology roadmap. In order to effectively ensure that your company meets its organizational goals, invest in the assistance of professionals to help plan your roadmap and lead your business to the future. The team of experts at VALiNTRY ?are here to help your organization successfully navigate and choose the right digital infrastructure, people and processes to invest in.

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