Five Advantages of IT Consulting

Most organizations will face the question of whether or not to consider investing in IT consulting, keep operations in-house, or simply outsource their entire IT environment. The truth is, not all organizations know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to IT and it can greatly slow their growth and progress – and cost them a lot of money. There are many advantages to turning to an IT consultant to help your IT goals align with your overall goals.

Below we’ll discuss five advantages of IT consulting and how each can help your organization succeed.

Time

This may be one of the lesser talked about advantages to IT consulting. While there are only so many hours in a day, week, month, or year, you can use your time more wisely. It takes time to recruit the proper talent to fill your IT department, it takes time to implement good IT practices, and it takes time to manage all the things that come with IT. Hiring a top IT consultant can help you reduce the time it takes from concept to implementation: they’ll be familiar with best practices, security compliance, infrastructure, and how to make sure your IT environment is helping your bottom line.

Cost

One of the main concerns is the cost of maintaining a top IT infrastructure. This can be especially daunting if you’re unsure of what you’re doing or you make some mistakes along the way. While growing pains are often part of doing business, it’s entirely possible to mitigate them and reduce costs in the process. Some organizations have seen a reduction in IT costs of 30% or more! By reducing the cost of IT you can use the increased revenue to invest in IT or other aspects of your business. Not only can you reduce the cost of resources, but you can lessen the risk of major disasters that can cost your company time and money.

Security

Your data and infrastructure’s security is imperative to maintaining a successful business in an ever-evolving digital world. We’re all aware of the threat of data and security breaches including from some of the country’s largest companies. IT experts and consultants will be familiar with all types of businesses, all types of data, and the different ways to secure what’s most important to your business. They’ll be able to perform a security risk assessment on your current infrastructure and find ways to not only improve your security but make sure you’re compliant where you need to be. The threat of a virtual attack isn’t going away, so it’s important to have the proper security you need to avoid an attack that can cost your business big time.

Disaster Recovery

Things happen that aren’t always good for business. When a disaster occurs it’s important to know what to do, how to do it, and who is responsible for certain tasks along the way. Having experts at your side can and will make this process much less stressful. What is most important in the face of a disaster is recovering your data rapidly so you can continue doing business. An expert IT consultant will have multiple recovery options to minimize downtime, and a number of cloud and replication options.

Clean Infrastructure

Though it isn’t easily obtainable, an expert IT consultant will provide a holistic infrastructure assessment allowing you to enhance operational efficiency, increase security, cut costs, and achieve compliance guidelines. In essence, this brings all the other advantages together in one. You’ll be provided with a best-fit solution for your IT needs as a company like Neovera will conduct a thorough assessment and gap analysis of your core infrastructure, including architecture design, implementation and migration services.

Having proper IT consulting is a major make or break point for any organization’s operational efficiency. While every incident is not completely avoidable, having the correct protocol in place will allow your business to continue to operate during the solution process. Neovera’s promise of 24x7x365 bespoke IT consulting allows companies to rest assured that their data is secured and protected.

What Is Your ISP Doing With Your Data?

In today’s digital world, “data” has quickly become a top buzz word. Many don’t realize that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is a data aggregator, collecting troves of data about each user online. ISPs and other companies collect enormous amounts of data, leading to the now-familiar term “Big Data”. Furthermore, said ISPs have been buying data analytics companies so they can analyze and use all the data they are collecting. But what’s the significance of “Big Data” and data collection? More importantly, do the pros outweigh the cons?

ISPs collect data on pretty much everything you do online. It’s gotten to the point that, if your ISP is also your television provider, they can match and combine your online and television data for marketing and advertising purposes. They know what websites you visit, what articles you read, where you shop, what apps you use, and what you watch on television. All of this information is like gold to marketers, giving them the ability to offer products to you with pinpoint accuracy all the while knowing your likelihood of purchasing the product is that much greater.

Now, for the user and company alike there are pros and cons to big data. On one hand users are well aware that they are consistently targeted by advertisements, so seeing products that are generally of interest to the consumer can be seen as a refreshing reprieve. However, there is a dark side to this as well. Cyber security is extremely important, especially when it comes to storing large amounts of data. In fact, for an ISP collecting all of this data, securing said data should be their highest priority and top concern. However, data breaches happen all the time to companies big and small. This means all of the data that has been collected about us can be stolen by someone who may wish to use it in not so appealing ways. They may also try to go after more critical information like credit card or bank information.

In the end, our personal data is everywhere, and protecting it should be a top priority. Individuals and companies alike using the Internet have hundreds of data points about them that are eventually used for marketing and other purposes. While this data collection can be harmless, the third parties such as ISPs that are collecting all this data are only one side of the cyber security spectrum when it comes to fully embracing the cyber security of a user or company at large.

Artificial Intelligence and the Cloud Are Changing Lives

Imagine you’re scrolling through pages on Amazon looking for the next great book or just ordering some more paper towels. You see that recommendation Amazon just gave you, one that’s right up your alley? That’s artificial intelligence at its finest – ever-present though many don’t realize how much it is engrained in everyday life. In this instance, AI is learning your shopping tendencies and using them to show you other products you are likely to be interested in; just one example of how it works in the consumer arena.

When it comes to businesses, artificial intelligence takes menial tasks off your plate.

For instance, there is x.ai, an artificially intelligent personal assistant who schedules meetings for you. By connecting your calendar with “Amy”, the name of your magical computer-created being, you now allow her to do your grunt work. When you receive a meeting request, you CC Amy on the email, who then takes over and schedules the meeting for you by finding an open time in your schedule. She will continue the process by emailing with your colleagues until the meeting is officially scheduled, at which point she’ll send the invite for you; your colleagues won’t even know she’s just a machine doing all the work.

Artificial intelligence is also helping engineers use their time more efficiently saving their companies millions of dollars.

GE uses artificial intelligence to build a digital “twin” of its jet engines, allowing engineers to see when a jet engine may need maintenance or inspection. Prior to this, engineers had to follow a schedule or decide on their own when to inspect an engine. This takes the engine out of use, and costs the company money and the engineer’s time, even if there ultimately isn’t anything wrong. Artificial intelligence allows these engineers to focus on the problems they actually need to solve.

These are just a few of the many examples of how artificial intelligence is changing the world. However, none of these developments would be a reality if it weren’t for the cloud.

Until the cloud came along, computing power was expensive. Constantly running an algorithm or having a machine continuously learn and organize data would be a significant cost, making it less feasible for a company to use it effectively without burning through the bankroll. Today, the cloud’s low cost computing power allows artificial intelligence to flourish.

Artificial intelligence continues to increase in sophistication, and organizations of all shapes and sizes have the opportunity to utilize the cloud to their own advantage. By working with a specialty firm that can be a guide through the process, companies and organizations can focus on their overall goals and not be sidelined by technology issues.

Lunchtime Crime: Popular Burger Chain Investigates Data Breach

Wendy’s announced that an investigation began this week into the possibility of a data breach at several of its restaurant locations across the Midwest and East Coast, after a number of financial institutions reported suspicious activity on customer accounts.

“We began investigating immediately,” said spokesman Bob Bertini. A Wendy’s spokesperson detailed the situation further, saying, “Reports indicate that fraudulent charges may have occurred elsewhere after the cards were legitimately used at some of our restaurants. We’ve hired a cybersecurity firm and launched a comprehensive and active investigation that’s underway to try to determine the facts.” It is estimated the breaches occurred only a few weeks ago, near the end of 2015.

According to KrebsOnSecurity, this breach may be a side effect of the restaurant chain not updating to EMV payment systems. Major credit card carriers – American Express, Visa, and others – requested US retailers to transition to Europay Mastercard Visa payment systems due to their secure nature versus the current swipe payment method. Unfortunately, many companies still have not made the transition.

While the fast food chain chose not to comment on these particular findings, experts in the field had plenty to shed light on: “If it turns out there was a breach and that Wendy’s had not fully deployed EMV, this will likely be the first time the post-EMV liability shift financial reimbursement processes will play out on a large scale,” says Jim Huguelet, principal managing partner at the Huguelet Group LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in retail security. These findings, if true, could serve as a major warning for those retailers that have not begun the transition to EMV.

Overall, the timeline from breach discovery to investigation is fairly quick in this particular situation. And, while it was the financial sector connection to Wendy’s that discovered the breach, it’s comforting to know they were working together to try and prevent these otherwise debilitating cyber attacks, or at least slow them down.

Can we mark this down as the first major data breach of 2016? At this time we’re not really certain. We’ll likely find out about others in the coming weeks and months, but at least we can say Wendy’s seems to be handling it well.

Data Security A Top Concern For FTC In 2016

This past week, privacy and consumer security issues took center stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV. Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez spoke with attendees about the potential benefits and risks associated with Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Smart devices and the collection of important, personal data are changing companies and the way users live our daily lives – ‘smart’ glucose meters, as Ramirez referenced, allows both patients and doctors to monitor glucose levels, and devices like a FitBit allow us to monitor our daily activity levels through steps and movements. But, Ramirez cautions, while IoT devices are becoming the norm, discretion is paramount in regards to the usage, sharing, and collection of data: “Connected devices that provide increased convenience […] are also collecting, transmitting, storing, and often sharing vast amounts of consumer data, some of it highly personal, thereby creating a number of privacy risks.”

With the FTC focusing on consumer privacy in the new year, Chairwoman Ramirez outlined three troublesome trends with the IoT partnership: all-encompassing data collection, taking liberties with consumer data that were previously unheard of, and heightened security risks. Of course, security and privacy are major concerns among technology users today. An endless collection of data can be hugely beneficial – saving time, money, and effort – but it’s also precarious. For instance, if that data is not secured properly or is subject to theft from a data breach or hack, it could have debilitating consequences for the consumer in question.

The solution? According to the FTC and Ramirez, it really falls on the company to do the following: assess the security risks associated with their user application, not collect every piece of data but rather to practice “data minimization”, and be transparent with how their data is being used and why.

In the end Chairwoman Ramirez’s words tell us that there is an increased focused on consumer privacy and security – with increasing data breach instances, a rallying cry has been made to strengthen security across businesses worldwide. Secondly, even though data breaches are going to happen, company’s must improve their immediate and long-term responses. One could infer from this speech that the probability of attacks or data breaches is only going to increase. Companies need to see increasing security measures and data transparency toward consumers as a two-pronged approach. Companies should not only have plans in place to mitigate risk overall, but plan for contingencies should there be an issue with data usage.

Overall, Ramirez sparked optimism for the future of data security and privacy. The world is getting smaller everyday, and smart devices are connecting people more than ever. This important step in the direction of smarter security will help guide us into the future unknown.

IT Predictions In The New Year: What To Look For In 2016

The New Year is upon us. We’ve shaken off the food comas and hangovers, changed out of our pajamas and back into our big kid clothes and pinned a new calendar to the wall. Many of us see a new year as a fresh start, a time to cure our ails and leave our mistakes in the past. While a new year offers plenty of opportunity to start over, it also offers opportunity to continue on an upward trajectory.

In the world of IT this couldn’t be truer. As we look ahead to a busy 2016, here are some topics in IT to keep an eye on.

The Cloud Gets Bigger

Cloud computing is the ‘hot topic’ if you will in the IT world. While the numbers still funnel in, it was estimated that cloud computing usage would rise over 40% in 2015 when compared to 2014. With what we’ve seen and heard the past year it stands to reason that number is accurate, if not a little low.

Expect to see cloud adoption increase even more in 2016. In a report published by Cisco, and outlined in a recent Network World article, predicts annual global cloud traffic will quadruple from its 2014 numbers and is expected to account for more than 80% of total data center traffic by 2019. The cloud is not only used for an e-commerce store or application development anymore, companies are finding new and exciting ways to use the power of the cloud to their advantage. Even the Army has begun researching cloud computing vendors so that they may break ground on a new contract vehicle. If the trends continue on a similar path we could see the best year yet for cloud computing.

Security Will Be Highest IT Concern

We’ve talked about it time and again – security is important. Over the past year we saw numerous organizations and government entities struggle with keeping their data secure. With more and more data being stored digitally the securing of that data is of the utmost importance – especially when it comes to consumer or customer trust.

As the adage goes, “money talks”. According to a recent article in TechCrunch, worldwide information security spending hit $76.9 billion this past year, and is projected to reach $170 billion by 2020. More importantly, venture capital investments in cyber security startups are growing consistently, with projected levels of $3.5 billion for 2015 alone. Look for cyber security to become a major influencer with IT firms’ decision making .

Big Data Makes A Big Return

Big data means big business. However, in the past year the cloud and cyber security have overtaken big data when it comes to business strategy. Business intelligence allows companies to make smarter decisions more quickly than ever before. They can make better products or provide improved service, and big data helps with all of that – for a deeper dive into the world of big data, check out the Forbes’ explanation here so you’re ready to be ahead of the curve for 2016.

We’ll See Something We Haven’t Seen Before

Virtual reality is becoming a true reality, 3D printing gives humans and animals limbs and organs, and any man or woman with the gusto (and a large enough bankroll) to shoot their own rocket into space can do so at their will. New and exciting things happen each and every day in the world of technology. This includes the world of IT.

Be assured that we will encounter something in 2016 that we’ve haven’t seen before. It could be a new application, a new security measure, a piece of IT related legislation. Whatever the case, each and every year there is new and exciting things to talk about that we never thought were possible.

 

Three Technology Predictions for 2016

2015 is coming to a close. We’ve seen a lot this past year in the world of technology. 3D printing is breaking new ground, the Internet of Things is connecting our devices like never before, and cyber security is reaching a boiling point; so much so that the United States government intends to create legislation due to the high number of security threats facing us everyday.

Something that hasn’t changed is our drive to create something better, more efficient, and safer. Each and every day some of the world’s brightest minds show us something we’ve never seen before. We’re entering an era of technology that will change the way we live forever, and the year 2016 will be yet another exciting chapter of the unfinished story.

Here are three technology predictions for 2016.

1. The Internet of Things Will See The Largest Growth

It’s estimated that the Internet of Things will exceed a value of $19 Trillion by the year 2020. The reality is Internet of Things technology is just getting started. We currently see “smart” devices in our homes and as part of our daily lives that help us cook, clean, or repair everyday appliances and other devices.

The truth is the Internet of Things is ready to explode onto the seen in a big way, and 2016 may be the year that IOT makes its way into a majority of homes in the United States. Combine that with technologies like Amazon’s Echo or Siri and you have the potential to turn your everyday activities into “hands-free” affairs.

2. Cybersecurity Will Be The #1 Concern

We’ve seen the “big” topics the last few years include things like Big Data, SaSS, and Mobile Apps. In 2016, Cybersecurity will take the cake as not only the most talked about topic in technology but the most pertinent. We experienced far too many cybersecurity incidents in 2015, and the frequency and scale of hacks and breaches gets larger all the time.

What can we do to realize a cyber attack when it’s occurring? How do we protect ourselves against cyber attacks? These are questions we’ll have to find better answers to in 2016, and with all those bright minds we spoke about earlier, it stands to reason that we will, collectively, find common solutions to cyber security problems.

3. We’ll See More Companies Run by Techies Than Businesspeople

Sure, we see big businesses like Facebook and Google run by technology gurus, but the reality is most “big” businesses are run by businessmen and women. In today’s world, it’s becoming more common to see someone that has education not only in technology but also business, combining two skills into a one. In the past both were considered as separate, unique skill sets. Today they can be mutually exclusive. Don’t be surprised to see emerging companies run by individuals with technology backgrounds.

Three Data Trends to Keep An Eye On In 2016

These days business is all about data. There’s big data, metadata, qualitative and quantitative data, and more. Data is everywhere, and is used to make everyday business decisions based on data analysis. Often times qualifying data quickly can mean the difference between big business, and going out of business.

With the importance of data growing every day, here are three trends in data to keep an eye on for 2016.

Predictive Analysis

“I see profits in your future…” is what the fortuneteller might say, and in this case if they were using predictive analysis they might be right. Using data to predict the future is not a magic trick. Identifying trends and using them to predict future behavior is becoming an integral part of not only everyday data analytics but the applications and tools developed to assist in the effort.

Social Analytics & Rich Media

Images and videos are becoming the norm in the technological world. No longer do audiences want to read the written word, but want to see rich media in its place. The difficulty here lies in being able to gather data about rich media in order to better understand the audience.

The tools needed to analyze rich media are becoming more sophisticated, allowing deeper understanding of how videos and images effect the user. Social media is also used heavily in this area and considering many, many people get their information from these platforms it’s the perfect place to mine for data. We’ll continue to see a rise in social analytics in the next year and beyond.

Big Data Will Rise Again

Big Data has taken a backseat to other topics such as cyber security in 2015. Of course, with there being so many high-profile cyber attacks in the last couple years you can understand why companies are focusing more on security than on data analytics.

Let’s also understand that Big Data isn’t going anywhere, and isn’t dead by a long shot. Many believe Big Data will once again rise up the ladder when it comes to IT spending in 2016 and for the next four to five years.

Moreover, it is believed that cloud-based Big Data will become the norm. Businesses will begin moving or provisioning Big Data applications in the cloud, allowing them to cost-effectively manage and analyze the large amounts of data they collect on a daily basis.

Today’s business is data driven, and that isn’t likely to change in the upcoming calendar year. We’ll be introduced to new technologies that assist with data collection and analysis, and we will better understand the future of data as time wears on. Data is a huge part of our future – whether it’s enhancements to your smartphone experience or a solution to cleaner energy, data lives within the heart of innovation and will continue to do so in 2016 and beyond.

IT Spending, Confidence On The Rise

Technology changes at a rapid pace. Everyday we see new operating systems, improved application development platforms, and scalable solutions that allow businesses to make real-time decisions. These changes are often difficult to keep up with, much less understand. As the demand for new and improved technology increases, we’re still looking at a talent gap that allows companies to implement and manage new technology. Despite this, companies are turning to technology to help improve their businesses, as evidenced by larger budgets and increased confidence in their IT departments.

A recent Teksystems survey asked 240 respondents about IT budgeting and confidence levels, among other things, and how this is affecting their day to day activities.

Big IT Budgets

Teksystems initially forecasted that about 45% of survey respondents would report an increase in their IT budgets. When the results came in they were surprised to see that a full 50% reported an IT budget increase, with 35% reporting no changes, and only 15% reporting a decrease.

Confidence

Part of the reason it has taken many companies a long time to budget more money to IT is a lack of confidence that the money would be well spent and IT would be able to properly satisfy business demand.

Teksystems anticipated about 70% of respondents would report a high confidence level in IT to satisfy business demand, and again the respondents reported a higher number than expected. A whopping 74% of respondents reported a high level of confidence in IT, with 13% reporting indifference, and another 13% reporting little to no confidence.

Where IT Money Is Going

At the outset of 2015 it was expected the top five trends or biggest impacts on IT would be:

  1. Security
  2. BI/Big Data
  3. Mobility
  4. Enterprise Resource Planning
  5. Cloud Computing

It makes sense that security would be the number one driver for new IT implementations, considering the rise in cyber crimes and cyber security breaches. However, the other technologies were a bit of a crapshoot. When the results of the survey came in, these were the top five:

  1. Security
  2. Mobility
  3. DevOps
  4. Cloud Computing
  5. BI/Big Data

What Does This Tell Us?

So, what does this data tell us about the current state of IT? Well, it appears that companies are putting more money and confidence in their IT departments to improve business processes and bottom lines. Where technology was often seen as a deterrent in the past, it’s now seen as a catalyst for improvement.

Security is also a big time concern – and for good reason. What is surprising though is the increase in attention on the mobility aspects of business. Smartphones, tablets, and telecommuting are more prevalent now than ever before, thus creating new challenges for IT departments everywhere. The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement is also more prevalent, adding to these mobility challenges. Given this, it makes good sense that mobility would be a major concern.

What may be most surprising, however, is the fact that business intelligence has taken a bit of a dip in importance. This could be true for a number of reasons, perhaps many companies already have these technologies in place, and they’re no longer a main focus – at least not for 2015. It still remains one of the top priorities for businesses and IT though.

Overall, the numbers continue to point in favor of IT, and the increased confidence and budgets shows an effort by businesses to utilize IT as a springboard to bigger and better things. This is good news for tech gurus and business owners alike. IT awareness continues to grow, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved.

HTTPS vs. HTTP: Ensure Your Online Security

As technology becomes a necessity in day-to-day life and business, more users are becoming adept at utilizing it. We can easily design and build our own websites from a template, download and listen to music, alter pictures taken with our cameras, etc., but while most of us can do these basic things, we often have no idea what actually goes into the technical process needed to compute such tasks and run the applications properly.

It’s probably fair to say that almost anyone with access to the Internet knows how to run a simple search query through a search engine like Google. However, what they often don’t know is how those results are calculated and presented, or what websites they can actually trust.

Sometimes your search results that pop up are simply the result of the written content and it’s relevancy to your query, but if you dig deeper you will find out that some websites are considered more secure than others. This is where HTTPS vs. HTTP comes in.

You probably recognize these acronyms as the letters before a web address in your address bar in the browser. But do you know what they mean? What is the difference between HTTP vs. HTTPS?

  • HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTTP is how the Internet determines the transfer of data and its locations (hyperlinks).
  • HTTPS – Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS is communication over HTTP, with a layer or encryption.

A good way to understand HTTP vs. HTTPS is how top-secret messages are carried out in times of war. Instead of an officer simply writing a letter in plain English that can easily be stolen and understood (HTTP), they write letters in code to be deciphered on the other end by someone who knows how to break the encryption code (HTTPS).

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.40.38 AM

A simple example of what computer encryption looks like.

This is a simple description, but one that resonates. Of course, if you were sending personal or private data across the Internet, you would want to make sure that data is secure, wouldn’t you? This is something many people do not realize when they browse the Internet or make online purchases.

How do you know if a website you are browsing, or more importantly purchasing from, is using HTTPS?

Just take a look at your address bar in your web browser. Any web address that begins with HTTP is using the standard protocol. This is what most people see. However, if you see a green “lock” icon, or a green bar or some kind, or the letter HTTPS, you can often be assured that the site you are browsing uses some form of encryption and can be considered secure.

So, how does this help the average user?

When you enter your credit card on a website that isn’t secure, the transfer or your information over the Internet to its end source is not encrypted, and can easily be stolen by cyber criminals. Sites that use HTTPS are most trustworthy, and many online stores may even have additional safeguards that will protect you if something should happen.

You can’t simply rely on businesses or others to keep your data secure though, so it’s important to take your own steps when you can, especially something as simple as looking at a web address and seeing whether it’s HTTPS or HTTP.