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Newtons Cradle

Inertia: The Science of Business Continuity

Newtons CradleTo paraphrase Newton’s Laws of Motion (with credit to Galileo) …

Absent an unbalanced force, an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest.

While this holds true for objects in a friction-less environment, it holds true for our businesses as well. Our businesses are in motion, working each day to service our customers with rhythms and cycles throughout each day, week, month, and year.

Our business cycles continue, until we meet an unbalanced force.

Some forces we expect, like changes in the economy that occur over a period of weeks or months.  Others forces are event-driven, such as storms, cyber attacks, and key employee departures. The sudden nature of event-driven forces can catch us by surprise, cripple our businesses in the short-term, and disrupt our normal cycles for the long-term.

A Case in Point

A company here in the northeast manufactures and distributes a customized product that customers generally replace or re-order every 2 to 3 years.  80% of the firm’s business is repeat, creating a strong and stable business. The company was hit by ransomware twice in a 3 month period.  The first attack, scrambled their files and their servers, but left their financial system in place.  They lost a day’s worth of data.  The immediate recovery took 3 days; the full recovery took nearly two weeks.  After three days of cleaning systems and restoring data, the company’s systems were up and running. They then had to enter the initial day lost data and all of the business activity for the 3 days their systems were down.  They allocated 1/3 of everybody’s time to recover the data, reducing productivity by 33% and impacting their responsiveness to customers. To enter the 4 days of missing data took over 10 days with the team working part time.

Inertia Takes Hold

This initial event changed the cycles and motions of the company. Whenever dealing with any business activity during the outage and recovery periods, they need to double check to make sure the information entered was complete and correct. And since some activities, like shipping and invoices related to prior activities, they need to double-check these connections.  Long after the two week recovery period, productivity is still down as the company’s daily motion now includes double-checking information that they are not sure they can trust.

Lesson NOT Learned

With so much focus on getting the business back into its normal rhythm, and the additional cost involved, the company did not act on recommendations that could help prevent a future attack and better ensure their ability to recover should a future attack occur. Whether the second attack was a different attack or they had failed to fully clean their systems does not matter.  The second attack was not caught until after the company’s backup server was hit, rendering their backups useless.  The company lost three years of data.

Inertia Creates a New Cycle

To recover from this attack took more than balancing data entry and on-going business. It was not feasible to manually recreate three years of data. While entering about 6 months of data for the fiscal year, they settled for a solution that created new methods and rhythms with long-term effects. They recalled all of their paper records from storage into an expanded warehouse space.  When a customer calls to re-order product they ordered 2 or 3 years ago, they search and retrieve the physical paperwork so they can create the new order. Every returning customer creates a scramble to find the paperwork in short order. Actions required in an emergency become part of the new normal. Inertia.

What You Can Do

You can be prepared with solutions that balance external forces beyond your control.

  • An educated and aware workforce balances the human manipulation that enables cyber attacks
  • Advanced threat, DNS, and web protections balance the forces of cyber attacks hitting us daily.
  • A robust backup/recovery and continuity system balances the forceful impact of disruptive events, giving you the ability to be up and running in hours not days.

If the company in our case study had implemented the recommended solutions after the first attack, they second attack would have disrupted the business for less than half a day — and may not have happened at all. The investment in communication, prevention, and recovery, while not trivial, was minor compared to the short term recovery and long term impact on the business.

If you are not ready or willing to have your business’ inertia redirected by forces beyond your control, now is the time to act.


Contact us for a free, no obligation, Cloud Advisor Session to discuss your business recovery and continuity needs and plans.


 

Extended Benefits of Cloud Computing


A Case Study in Network Efficiency

Changing the names to protect identities, let’s take a look at NE Company’s network history and design.  NE Company currently has 4 locations. The company’s headquarters are located in a suburban business park along with a second facility hosting R&D and some engineering functions. The third location for software development is a few miles down the road; the fourth location is a distribution center that is an eight hour drive away, across two state lines.

Generation One:

When NE Company only had the HQ and out of state locations, they connected the offices using point to point leased lines. Internet access was available from both locations. Because of slow performance accessing files, NE Company installed a local file server in the distribution center. While having two file servers fixed the file performance issue, email still suffered from the central location, they occasionally experienced file duplication issues, and the solution was costly.

Generation Two:

As NE Company added locations, they initially stuck to the point-to-point model, creating a hub-and-spoke network. Performance was an issue, as was managing router configurations such that Internet traffic moved to the Internet locally while application, email, and file traffic stayed within the corporate network.

To improve performance and to reduce redundancy and costs, NE Company transitioned to a MPLS, or Multi-Protocol Labeled Switching network.  A single connection to each office could no route inter-office traffic and Internet traffic through a single pipe.

Granted, NE Company increased it’s wide area network capacity by more than 80% while cutting costs in half, but the operational limitations linger. The company’s email server is still centralized at HQ, as are most of the files, and hosting for the company’s web-based management system. Users face performance delays often. The company has added local file services at all locations, increasing user confusion as to file locations and how to access information. The additional file servers have also complicated data backup/recovery services, which now require more administrative time and attention.

As the workforce has become more mobile, access to data and applications has driven an expensive investment in VPN services. VPN concentrators, client software, and management have been an expensive addition to the environment. While providing access, performance fails to meet reasonable user expectations and the support cost is high.

Generation Cloud:

If NE Company took a cloud-centric view of computing, email and file services would move to the cloud.  The company could move its on-premise CRM system to the vendor’s SaaS service, and could host its custom web-based management system in a cloud-based server environment.

In doing so, NE Company would

  • Provide all of its employees with equal access to resources and better performance
  • Replace the complex, managed MPLS network with direct Internet access connections at each office
  • Reduce wide area networking costs by nearly 80%
  • Provide direct access to files and applications from on-premise and mobile employees
  • Eliminate the need for most VPN services
  • Reduce its server footprint
  • Simplify the backup/recovery services
  • Reduce IT Admin time on basic infrastructure operations and maintenance

Conclusion

The impact of moving from on-premise systems to the cloud-based solutions is never as simple as the specific application or service. By looking at the integration points and indirect or secondary impacts, you can better understand the nature of the migration. As important, you can identify potential savings and other benefits as a result of the move.

For Tea Living, Inspiration Accelerates after Move to Google Apps

Tea Living INC. (teacollection.com) brings worldwide cultures and modern design to children’s fashion. Twice each year, Tea packs their bags and travels the world to explore and discover. With original, high-quality designs inspired by their adventures abroad, Tea stands for practical luxury with pieces that are easy to care for and feel great to wear. Tea has won awards in innovation from their industry peers (as well as global recognition for their use of social media and technology), which clearly points to a path of continued growth.

With increasingly rapid growth over the past several years, Tea has gone from a single office in San Francisco to three locations, including a second office in San Francisco and a customer service center in Idaho. With remote salespeople and employees regularly traveling the world, Tea’s in-house email and file sharing servers were feeling the strain. Upgrading or expanding the email server would be a costly proposition.

Tea was already exploring options for hosted and cloud email services when the unthinkable happened. “Our Exchange server crashed and the mailstore was corrupted,” states Kenner Rawdon, Network Administrator of Tea Living INC. “Without email, our ability to effectively communicate–to service our customers–was at a standstill.”

Working with Boston-based Cumulus Global, a Google Apps Premier SMB Partner, Tea was up and running with Google Apps for Business in under a day. “In less time and effort than it would take to recover our Exchange server,” notes Rawdon, “we had global access to all of our email, calendars and contacts. Even with our emergency situation, the process was remarkably smooth.”

While Tea’s initial motivation was email, the company saw many other benefits from their move to Google Apps. With continuous world travel and an endless stream of photographs and images, Tea employees use Drive to upload and share pictures and files. Without the need for a VPN connection, employees no longer struggle with multiple login steps and performance issues. Telecommuters, mobile and remote staff use Drive and Docs to collaborate in real time and across time zones. Teams share information and ideas as they arise, without the limitations of email and voicemail. Using priority inbox and filters, employees report that they are able to stay organized and remain focused.

Innovation and creativity flow more easily without all the clutter.

“The impact of Google Apps is evolutionary,” concludes Rawdon. “We continue to find ways to work more effectively and be more productive as we continue to use more features of Google Apps’ features.” As an example, Rawdon sees growing use of Hangouts as a tool for meetings and calls. “Being able to see each other, along with the designs and images we share, will help us collaborate and make decisions more effectively. This personal interaction also fits well with our philosophy and culture.”

Tea Living INC. was co-founded by Emily Meyer and Leigh Rawdon, two moms who bonded over a love of travel. The company gives back to the community through its partnership with The Global Fund for Children, Tea’s School Days program, and the company’s Inspiring Mom Awards.

Case Study: Fig & Olive (video)

Case Study- Fig & Olive - YouTube
Google Apps has the power to transform how businesses communicate and work.  Fig & Olive, a growing restaurant company in New York city, discussed how their move to Google Apps resulted in benefits extending well beyond a better email platform.

Click the image to see the Fig & Olive case study, as presented at our  Getting More from Google Apps  breakfast event at Google’s NYC offices on September 19th.

Hear first hand how management and employees reap the benefits of working the future. To see the recording of the entire live event, click here.

Case Study: Google Apps Supports Strategic Growth at Merrimack Mortgage Company

 

The Company

Founded in 1983, Merrimack Mortgage Company (MMC) continues to be a leader in residential mortgage lending throughout the Northeast and is one of the region’s largest independent mortgage bankers.

MMC prides itself for being the company that delivers the same products as the big lenders but with the high quality service levels inherent in a small lender. This winning combination of finesse and strength has led Merrimack Mortgage Company to its exceptional growth during the past three decades. The company’s success is attributed to its core strategy of providing a high level of customer satisfaction at a competitive price.

The Challenge

Merrimack Mortgage Company relies on extending its operations by expanding the size of the company’s geographic market area with new satellite branches. The IT department is challenged with bringing these loan officers located in satellite branches into the company’s processes effectively and quickly to allow them to be up and running as fast as possible.

The Solution

With integrated communications and file services, the transition to Google Apps was part of a strategic initiative to put the company in a competitive position to enable it to expand its operations effectively, from a primarily New England-based operation to cover their expansion outside of New England. This expansion included enabling a homogenous environment to all of the company’s loan officers while still complying with SOX, GLBA, ISO and other internal governance and audit requirements.

“The business side of me saw Google Apps as a slam dunk from a ROI and TCO perspective, and the technologist in me also couldn’t argue against introducing variable costs, scalability, availability, and OS and hardware independence. Cumulus Global recommended and helped us deploy CloudLock and Backupify for compliance, policy enforcement, risk mitigation, and data protection. This allowed us to fully embrace Google Apps and made both my Chief Compliance Officer and CFO very happy.”
— Matthew Seaton, CIO Merrimack Mortgage Company

Integrating Google Apps and CloudLock, Merrimack Mortgage Company extends its security perimeter to the cloud. MMC ensures its use of email, calendars, contacts, and files stored and shared via Google Drive comply with regulations like SOX, GLBA, ISO and other internal Acceptable Use Policies.  Backupify protection data across Google Apps accounts against data damage or deletion due to user error.

“I am not sure if I would have felt confident with my decision to move our company’s communication and collaboration needs to Google Apps for Business without the solutions and assistance from Cumulus Global. The integrated solution has relieved my anxiety over having our company data hosted by a third party,” said Seaton.  “Our management team was relieved by the value proposition.  We pay as we grow rather than making large up-front capital investments.”

Since MMC’s initial Google Apps for Business implementation in June of 2011, MMC has increased sales staff by 15% and the number of physical locations by 26%. Operations staff increases have been minimal in comparison. The greatest benefit, in regards to increased sales staffing and locations, is the ability turn-up new team members literally in minutes. In more recent months, MMC has seen back-to-back monthly company record breaking sales numbers.

To learn more about Merrimack Mortgage Company, visit: www.merrimackmortgage.com.

 

 

Breitner Transcription Services

“Horizon’s implementation service was key to our success. We could not have given more than 100 at-home workers a new email service without the planning, training, and migration expertise that Horizon provided, all at a per-user price we could afford”

Owen Breitner, President

The Challenge

How do you provide a reliable email service to a staff of over 100 at-home workers located throughout North America? In-house solutions would demand resources and a secure, costly infrastructure for remote access.  Most hosted services provide support to your IT staff, but not to individual end users. Finding the right solution requires an easy-to-use, secure, hosted system combined with proven, affordable implementation and support services.

The Solution

Google Apps Premier Edition combined with Horizon’s Unlimited Service Package combined the power of Gmail and Google Calendar with individual user attention. Working with each user via web meetings, Horizon’s Operations Team ensured every user was able to log into Google Apps and perform basic email and calendaring functions. Horizon also managed the migration of active emails into each users’ Gmail account.

With Horizon’s help, Breitner was able to provide over 100 remote users with secure, robust email services without increasing IT resources.

Zero Point Zero Production

Google Apps protects an award-winning brand while providing flawless communications around the globe.

Background

Zero Point Zero Production (ZPZ) is an Emmy winning television production company based in New York City.  Producing shows such as Anthony Bordain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel, ZPZ has staff and freelancers working 7×24 around the globe.

The Challenges

With a string of successful productions, ZPZ was growing and their current email solution was failing to keep up.  Beyond a difficult administration tool and weak user interface, their hosted email service lacked calendaring and shared documents.  It also failed to integrate with other applications.

ZPZ also needed a solution that would help them protect their intellectual property and their brand.  They wanted all communications, even from freelancers, to be sent from and to the corporate domain and to have all emails archived.  Employees and freelancers were regularly using personal email accounts to ‘get around’ their current system.

With the speed of their business, they would also need to be able to deploy new user accounts in less than 12 hours and easily manage active/inactive status.

The Decision

ZPZ did their research and found that:

  • They could deploy a cloud computing email solution for much less than an in-house system
  • Cloud-based email supports global users more easily and at a lower cost
  • Active user accounts can scale up and down as freelancers start and finish projects
  • More than 75% of their employees and freelancers already used Gmail personally and were familiar with its use
  • Google Apps Premier Edition integrated with Postini to provide full email archiving services, even for inactive and deleted accounts

ZPZ turned to Horizon Info Services for help with the setup and migration.

The Results

Following a jointly developed project plan based on Horizon’s best-practices, Horizon created and migrated all existing user accounts, behind the scenes, over a single weekend.  ZPZ email users began work on a Monday morning with the new service, with no complaints about the migration or Gmail service.  Horizon assisted the 25% of users wishing to keep their application-based email client and ensured all mobile devices were fully connected.

Staff and freelancers quickly began using broader functionality, including Google Docs, instant messaging, and calendar scheduling/sharing.  With easy setup, new freelancers have accounts and instructions waiting for them nearly immediately after the contract is signed.  Use of personal email accounts dropped to zero.

Since deployment, the number of users has nearly doubled.  Google Apps has scaled linearly, without any financial bumps for hardware and software.  Up-time has been perfect and ZPZ has integrated Google Apps with other cloud-based solutions.

With Horizon’s deployment expertise and support services, Google Apps has given ZPZ more than a global email service, Google Apps lets ZPZ communicate and collaborate in ways that let them focus on delivering award winning productions instead of IT.