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August 2011 E-Newsletter

August 2011 Tech Times

Who Else Wants To Win A $25 Gift Card?

Monthly Trivia:

Starbucks CardThe Grand Prize Winner of June’s Quiz is ….. 

Doug Mitchell from Sterling Planet, she won a $25 gift Card from Starbucks

Last month’s question –
The word ‘patriotism’ comes from the Latin patria which means…

Answer: Homeland
________________________________________

This month’s question is:

Prince Charles once said, “Diana only married me so that she could…” what?

a) Be a Princess
b) Live in a palace
c) Wear the family jewelry
d) Go through red lights

Be the first to e-mail Shannon scsmith@mis-solutions.com with the correct answer to win a $25 Gift Certificate to Starbucks!


Save The Date

September 15, 2011 from 8am-1pm
The 1818 Club, Duluth, GA

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • How To Build And Implement Your Technology Strategic Plan
  • 7 Easy Ways To Use Social Media To WOW Your Customers With Stellar Customer Service
  • Cloud Computing: What You Need To Do To Prepare for The Big Changes That Are Coming
  • Backup & Disaster Planning 102: How To Go from Destruction To Production In Less Than 28 Hours

To Register, go to our Tech Exchange event page today.


Meet Our Pet Of the Month: Roxie

RoxieMy name is Roxie. I am a female Siberian Husky, born on Halloween (10/31/10). I have a nice gray and white coat. I have one ice blue eye & one half ice blue and brown eye. I am full of energy. And I like being outdoors and swimming in the lake. My daddy (Mike Grimshaw) works at Advantage Fire and he thought I should enter your contest.

Thanks Mike for sharing Roxie with our readers of Tech Times. As this month’s Grand Prize Winner, she won a $50.00 Treat Basket from Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery in Suwanee and will be featured on our MIS Blog. If you want free stuff for your fabulous pet, you can enter one of these 3 ways:

  1. Call Shannon Smith at 678-730-5527.
  2. Email at scsmith@mis-solutions.com.
  3. Or go online to http://budurl.com/petofthemonth and submit your pet’s picture and story.

What’s This Cloud Computing Stuff All About?

CloudExplaining the cloud is tough. Using it is easy.

In May, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) issued a draft publication titled, “Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations,” which described the characteristics of cloud computing as an on demand, self-service of resource pools that are rapidly elastic and provided as a measured service.(1) If you don’t have an iPod, you certainly know someone who does. So you know that when you buy a song from the iTunes store, you put it on your computer (PC or MAC) and can add it on one other device, usually your iPod. If you introduce another device to the mix, Apple says no-no, only two devices.

All of that changed this summer. Now when you buy a song, you can put it on iCloud, Apple’s music storage server in the “cloud.” The best part is you can access it from any device now, because when you log in you are identified as the owner of the song. That’s the cloud. Wait, you say, I don’t have a MAC or iPod. Okay, fair enough. That box that sits on the floor under your desk or in the server room can be moved to the cloud. Your operating system, files and software have “left the building” and you connect to them through the Internet. Now someone else can worry about patches and virus protection and updating software. That’s the cloud.

The best part is that you can choose the device you want to use to access the cloud. Want to connect via Blackberry? Go ahead! iPad? Go for it! iPhone? Yep! Slate tablet? Sure, have at it! It’s not about the hardware and maintenance anymore; it’s about the value of up-time and reliability. And guess what, you are already using the cloud and probably don’t even think about it. Do you use Facebook? That’s in the cloud. Do you watch videos on You Tube? Do you have a GMail account or a Yahoo Home page? That’s the cloud. More video were uploaded to YouTube.com in the past two months than if ABC, CBS and NBC had been airing new content 24/7 since 1948.(2)

What about those pictures you send to CVS Photo and pick up two hours later at the CVS Store of your choice? Oh, and what about Netflix, movies on demand? That’s the cloud. The cloud is a pretty simple concept. You can get to your files and applications from anywhere on the planet on almost any device. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a laptop, iPad or a Blackberry. The device is just your preferred tool to retrieve your information.

For the first time, the consumer will likely arrive at the cloud fully equipped before business gets on board; but once getting on board, it’s going to move fast. On the cloud you are freed of worrying, “Do I need to upgrade my server?” or “Does my PC talk to my MAC?” Just connect to the Internet and work from anywhere.

The cloud offers some obvious advantages:

  • You can save money on support, equipment and software since they are taken care of by the cloud provider.
  • It’s like electricity; it’s metered. You just pay for what you use.
  • Instant backups do away with worry about data loss.
  • No more dreading “patch Tuesday” and “Will my PC work on Wednesday?”
  • A failed server won’t put you out of business.

Warning: Not every situation is perfect for the cloud.

  • You may have very specific line-of-business software that can’t be hosted in the cloud.
  • Or you may need a commercial grade broadband connection, which makes it more costly to have information in the cloud.

Is the Cloud infrastructure ready for my business? Good question. There are some real concerns with cloud computing which are getting serious attention as this platform is maturing. The biggest concerns are:

  • Security – There have been a number of security issues related to cloud computing.
  • Data Backups – Moving data to the cloud still necessitates backing up data and business continuity planning. It’s critical to know how data is backed up and more importantly what is the process to get it back thru the cloud solution. There have been several highly public data loss incidents so at this point, we recommend doing your own backups for protection.
  • Privacy – Shared resources add complexity to the security requirements. These details and best practices to secure data including compliance with HIPPA, Sarbanes–Oxley Act etc are under development.
  • Paradox of Support Requirements – As emerging cloud solution providers are pimping their new offerings, they don’t offer many details into the supportability of the solution once it’s running. Cloud like any other technology platform is not a “set and forget” item. Many experts are predicting the cloud platform will mature into a hybrid solution necessitating deeper skill sets for your IT provider/team. Navigating which piece of the puzzle goes where and who or which provider is responsible for what puzzle piece will become more critical. The added complexity of supporting such an environment will increase leaving less seasoned and inexperienced solution providers behind. The paradox then is that the cloud solution vendors highlight the “less headaches, better, faster, cheaper and trouble free IT” nirvana of the cloud, but they fail to mention that you will need deeper technical skill sets to maintain the solution.

We are spending time right now working on how this fundamental change will help our clients. We will continue our dialogue on this subject that we began back in Summer of 2010. If you want more details NOW, order our Executive Training CD entitled: “Discover the Secrets of Cloud Computing To Lower Costs” by calling or emailing me at Jennifer@mis-solutions.com. This series is FREE to all Greenlight clients. We are offering the first 5 NON Greenlight Clients a FREE Copy. Reminder -we are your guide dog on emerging technologies – that’s one of the reasons you hired us so please email your questions, thoughts or comments to me at jennifer@mis-solutions.com or call at 678-730-2703.

References/Links:

  1. Eweek.com, 6/20/2011: Bridging Private and Public Clouds by Cameron Studevant; http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Cloud-Computing/Bridging-Private-and-Public-Clouds-590165/
  2. Gartner Research.com, 6/21/2011: Technology Trends You Cannot Afford to Ignore by Ray Paquet;
    http://www.gartner.com/it/content/1642600/1642624/june_21_tech_trends_you_cant_afford_to_ignore_rpaquet.pdf?userId=54424200

Discover How Having A Data Recovery System Saved Huddle House Over $12,600 In Operational Costs –
Client of the Month: Tom Cossuto,
Chief Financial Officer, Huddle House, Inc.

Huddle House was founded in 1964 by John Sparks. Having already opened a few restaurants under various names, he needed a great name for his restaurant chain. One evening in Decatur, Georgia, he saw a boy meeting friends after football practice holding his helmet in one hand and a football in the other. It looked as if the group were “huddled up” talking and laughing together. It was at that moment he decided that Huddle House was the perfect name for the restaurant chain and it would be the place where folks would gather, or “huddle up,” for great food and good times after Friday night football games. So, with its new name, Huddle House was born.

Sparks continued to successfully build the Huddle House brand for many years by adhering to his core values of providing great service and serving quality food cooked-to-order so it’s always fresh, hot and delicious. When Sparks passed away in 1978, his wife, Pauline, took the helm until Huddle House was sold to a private firm in 1994.

Although Sparks’ passion to serve quality food in a warm, friendly environment that brings folks together remains intact, much has changed since the first Huddle House opened its doors. New restaurants feature a look that’s bright, colorful and reminiscent of America’s classic neighborhood diners. The menu has grown to include a variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees that take their place beside the “House” classic favorites. Huddle House is proud to have served guests “Any Meal. Any Time.” It is now a 400 unit Southeastern Family Restaurant chain and has just celebrated their 47th anniversary.

Tom Cossuto, Chief Financial Officer, has been with Huddle House for over 6 years. Like many CFO’s, technology is one of the many responsibilities I have with the company although my background and focus is skewed more towards the financial aspects of my role. Several years ago, we operated with a traditional in-house IT department. The main challenge at that time was that our IT team did not understand the business as well as they needed to and they could not always communicate or translate their technical issues into business solutions I could understand and support. This made it difficult for me to secure the necessary capital from the CEO and Board of Directors.

In 2007, a good friend of mine, Edwin Stinson, told me I should reach out to Lliam Holmes at MIS Solutions as an alternative IT support option. We engaged with MIS Solutions for some advisement level work. Shortly thereafter, our IT Director unexpectedly passed away and MIS came to the rescue. The team at MIS is great. We work closely with our account’s engineers, who are modest, quiet, professional, prompt and they get things done quickly. In fact, I’ve worked with several team members at MIS and they all operate that way which is reassuring to me.

Every business has constraints but must try to remain on the cutting edge. Team MIS helps me balance the budget while ensuring we get what we need from a technology perspective. They balance cost, effectiveness, and functionality. One of the things I like most about MIS is that I always get an immediate, professional, high level response when we have technical issues and that was not the case when we had our own internal IT team. This type of response gives me a great deal of comfort and it is at an affordable cost. In practice, Team MIS comes up with creative solutions to our business needs.

Huddle House is a $220 million company which operates 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. Every hour we are polling stores for sales and menu information so we must be up and running 24/7/365. We are collecting over $25,000 per hour everyday of the year in sales information so uptime is critical to our operations. Early on in the relationship, MIS recommended we streamline our backup systems using their Greenlight Rapid Recovery service to help ensure a fast recovery if and when servers misbehaved. That decision paid off when our Addonix server had a hardware failure recently.

The net result was that MIS was able to restore the server to full functionality within 4 hours whereas if we would have been using a traditional tape backup – that process would have taken well over four days to complete. Without Addonix working, our distribution center would have come to a halt at some point and their ability to pick and ship products and our ability to invoice for those services would have been impaired leaving manual recovery options as an alternative. The Greenlight Rapid Recovery Service saved our business well over a week’s worth of disruptions to our business and over $13,000 in potentially lost operational costs by implementing a fast data recovery plan for one of our key servers. Had we not had the Rapid Recovery Service implemented not only would we have lost substantial productivity but we would have spent days collecting and re-entering the data. And the soft costs of customer and franchisee dissatisfaction are sometimes tough to quantify but often more expensive than the hard costs. Thank you Team MIS for giving me the reassurance that not if but when we have problems, I can count on a fast, professional and reliable response from the entire team at MIS Solutions. -Tom Cossuto

Dear Tom,
Thanks for sharing your story with our readers. We appreciate you taking time to share your business needs with us so that we can help your team uncover opportunities to mitigate risk, streamline efficiencies, deliver business outcomes and trim costs in technology. I believe that our happiest customers are those that interact with us at the level you do. Our conversations extend beyond the tactical aspects of technology to strategic discussions. When you and Lliam meet, you discuss business needs, challenges, and trends which gives us the opportunity to share and develop creative solutions to your needs. We selected you as Client of the Month because you reap the real value of MIS by engaging us at a strategic level within your business. Thank you for your kind words and we look forward to many more years serving you and the Huddle House Team.- Lliam & Jennifer


Disaster Recovery: The Most Critical Part To Data Backups That Most Companies Overlook

A few months back tornados ripped through Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, Alabama causing massive devastation. If you were fortunate, you only had to suffer through minor interruptions of utility services, with others paying a far steeper price. In fact, a colleague of mine who also offers IT services had his office in Joplin reduced to a pile of rubble (see photo). This got me thinking about how important disaster recovery planning is to any business. No one expects terrible things to happen, but when they do, having that plan in place can really save your bacon. And one of the MOST important aspects of this is the recovery part – how are you going to get that data back onto a working platform that allows you to continue serving your customers and operating your business. The shocker for most business owners is that simply having a copy of the data does NOT guarantee a fast recovery. Let me give you an analogy to help you understand…

Let’s suppose we put a disaster recovery plan together for your home. Your house would represent the server and platform, and all your furniture and personal items would be the data. Now let’s suppose we could make a backup of your home by making an exact copy of everything that’s in your house (all your furniture, appliances, clothing, etc.) and storing it in a “backup” shed. Then the unthinkable happens: your house gets leveled by a tornado, flood or fire and everything is gone (or a critical part of it is damaged and needs to be replaced). You would think, “Well, at least I have a copy!” True, but the first thing you would need to do is replace the home itself (remember, that’s the platform that everything resides on). Next you would have to “reinstall” the services like gas, electricity and water (let’s call that the software). Then you would have to haul everything from the shed back to the house and “reformat” it by arranging it into the house. Depending on the extent of the damage done to your house, that could take days or weeks; chances are you’d have to find a hotel to live out of in the meantime. In addition, there’s the time and cost of moving everything back in and re-arranging and restoring everything to its proper place.

Plus, the above assumes you have a recent, working copy of your entire home and everything in it. If you failed to make a copy – or if the shed where you were storing everything had a water leak that destroyed everything inside due to mold – then you’re really out of luck.

Of course, this is a simple analogy – and there are ways to back up your data and network so that recovery can happen inexpensively in a matter of hours verses days or weeks. But if you simply think having a tape backup is going to be your saving grace, you might be unpleasantly surprised. I can’t tell you the number of businesses who ended up losing incredibly valuable, irreplaceable data because they didn’t think through the RECOVERY part of the backup equation.

So what do you need to think about? First, the way you backup your data should be based on how important your data is and how fast you would need to be back up and running in the event of a disaster. If losing your data would only be a mild inconvenience and you could stand to be down for a couple of days, then tape backups may be okay. If that’s not an option for you and there are certain critical functions that need to happen to keep you from getting into hot water with your customers and to prevent you losing a LOT of cash, then you want something more reliable than tape drives.

The BEST thing to do is contact our office to schedule a strategy meeting to go over your needs and expectations for what should happen in the event of downtime or an outright disaster. That way you know for sure what to expect and – more importantly – how to accurately prepare for a disaster. To schedule, please call Jennifer at 678-730-2703, or email her at Jennifer@mis-solutions.com.