By 2018, Three Quarters of the World’s Data Traffic Will Use the Cloud

A study from September 2013 by TheInfoPro, a service of 451 Research, predicted explosive growth for cloud technology. The data was from the first six months of 2013. The results predicted that the cloud market would grow at a rate of 36 percent compound annual growth rate and reach a market size of $19.5 billion by 2016. By the spring of 2014, however, Forrester Research was reporting that the market will reach over $190 billion by 2020. Cisco’s report supports the reports of unprecedented growth in its Fourth Annual Global Cloud Index. The Index predicts that global data center traffic will triple from 2013 to 2018. Traffic will increase from approximately 3.1 zettabytes per year in 2013 to over eight zettabytes in 2018. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. A&A Search provides some highlights concerning cloud computing and its development: Cisco explains that eight zettabytes of data center traffic is equivalent to streaming all 500,000 movies and three million television shows ever made in ultra-high definition 250,000 times. Almost 40 percent of companies surveyed have a separate cloud computing budget in addition to their organizational IT budget, indicating changes in accounting and budgeting practices. To put the value of cloud technology into perspective, a typical enterprise cloud computing mean budget is over $8 million. The top cloud computing projects for organizations currently include internal private cloud projects at 35 percent and cloud assessment and strategy planning at 33 percent. Assessment and strategy have seen the greatest increase in activity as firms try to become more agile in terms of IT. Not surprisingly, security is the greatest problem with respect...

Exit Interviews: Know Why Your Talent is Leaving

Exit interviews are sometimes perfunctory or haphazard on the part of employers. The mindset may be that an employee is leaving the organization … they already have one foot out the door and really, what do they have to offer at this point? But a well-constructed exit interview can provide key insight into your company culture, dysfunctions, and opportunities to improve your talent retention record. Why Exit Interviews? Proper exit interviews are an excellent tool for learning about your organizational strengths and weaknesses, as well as those unique to various members of your management team. The information you garner can help you understand how to best satisfy, engage and keep good employees. Find out the real catalyst to an employee’s departure. Once you know the answer, you can decide which corrective actions, if any, to take. If you spot patterns in why people are leaving, then you’re really onto something. Build engagement. Use interview feedback to examine your work processes and ensure that your business remains healthy and is a draw for high-performing talent to contribute, add value and build for a mutually beneficial future. Who Should Conduct Them? In order to get solid information, it’s important that an exit interviewer remain as objective as possible. If they become biased, defensive or emotional, the employee is more likely to distort their answers or worse yet, clam up and not talk at all. A neutral person from HR or a third-party vendor should conduct exit interviews. Avoid using the departing employee’s supervisor as there may be issues – either obvious or underlying – that will hamper the process. When Should...

Hiring for a Position, or Hiring for Growth Potential?

Over the years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the companies we support. For many of these businesses, the need for highly skilled employees comes at breakneck speeds, so fast that the job descriptions aren’t even written yet. Yet other companies are coasting along at a slow, comfortable incline, occasionally needing to fill open positions or harness contract workers for specific projects. The companies that hire for growth were taking calculated risks that, more often than not, paid off. When you hire for growth, you’re looking ahead at where you want to be, and acting on the possibility of fulfilling your highest potential. Sometimes, however, a business just needs to hire for a position or a project. In these situations, the momentum is already built, you just need to keep it moving. Here, all options – temporary, temp-to-hire and permanent staffing – are considered. Workforce management is a big job and somebody’s got to do it. So when your office is experiencing growing pains, how do you know when it’s time to hire for growth or time to hire for a position? Hiring for a Position Find a professional who fits in well with the current culture. Use an existing job description for a vacant position, possibly with a few updates. Need a very specific skill set to manage current projects and clients. Face everyday challenges, while maintaining standards of organization and productivity. Provide support for executives and current employees. Hiring for Growth Secure talent now for major projects on the horizon. Complaining from current employees on being overworked or being unable to take on new projects. Add increased knowledge...

The Steps The Target Hackers Took | And How You Can Use This Knowledge to Prevent Further Attack

IBM Security Services reports that there were 1.5 million cyber attacks in the US in 2013. The greatest security risk to companies is, currently, data breach, and one successful attempt was the attack on the retailer Target. Thor Olavsrud of IT World reported on an investigation by the leading research company Aorato on the hacking incident that afflicted the retailer Target. The incident led to the theft of personal identifiable information (PII) and seized credit and debit card data from the point of sale system. The US Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service have reported that the hackers currently have possession of widespread data that they continue to sell. The hackers obtained the PII of 70 million customers by first penetrating Target’s system using stolen data from the HVAC vendor. An email phishing technique obtained data and provided access to Target’s web services. Vulnerabilities that existed within Target’s web applications allowed the hackers to upload a PHP file and execute commands. The attackers made little attempt to disguise their files. Their intent was to sell credit cards on the black market, and the window of opportunity was small before the attackers would be discovered by credit card companies. The attackers located the servers that hosted credit card information. Using IP addresses, Domain Admin privileges, and the creation of a new Domain Admin account attackers obtained password control. The attackers bypassed firewalls and performed processes remotely on targeted servers. Aorato’s lead researcher, Be’ery, stated that monitoring user lists and access patterns is a simple step that can alert companies of hacking activity. The payment card industry compliance...

Give Your Employees a Break and Watch Productivity Climb

A recent study by Staples examined the break habits of over 200 employees in the US and Canada. The study revealed that a sense of guilt is the primary reason employees do not take breaks. Although over 80 percent of employees believe that a break would make them more productive, only 14 percent reported using a breakroom for brief periods of respite. The study revealed that over 60 percent of workers spend more than eight hours in the workplace, and excessive stress continues to be a major concern. Over 40 percent of employees are exhausted from long workdays, but a majority consider that regular breaks would improve personal wellbeing. Here are some ways to encourage employees to take more breaks. Over 50 percent of survey respondents want snacks, but an overwhelming majority would prefer healthy snacks such as nuts or fruit as opposed to chips and candy. The study showed that 30 percent of employees work at companies who do not provide coffee, but over 40 percent of employees take over 40 minutes to leave the office for coffee. Provide healthy snacks and beverages in an allocated room where staff can unwind and interact with colleagues. Fifty percent of respondents reported that they do not have an allocated break room with comfortable furniture. Providing staff with an opportunity to socialize with colleagues in a comfortable environment can improve relationships and reduce stress. Professor Trougakos, an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Toronto, told Phyllis Korkki of the New York Times that, to unwind, staff must detach from work and technology. Enforce a no technology rule in the...

Getting Accounting and CRM Systems to Operate Together

IT consultants, such as Acuity Business Solutions, often recommend integrating sales and marketing systems with accounting systems. The two functions are often separated because of limitations inn system functions and fears concerning data sharing and security breaches. Acuity argues that enterprise resource planning, or integrated systems, are now more sophisticated and offer improved client communication and accurate financial forecasting. David Taber of IT World, however, highlights the potential problems in an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting system. These problems reflect the different goals of the system users, and the fact that CRM systems and accounting systems serve different purposes that often conflict with each other. CRM, done right, is a strategic tool that uses proprietary customer data to understand the market and identify opportunities. CRM is not simply a reporting database. According to Taber, accounting systems use high-quality data that provide accurate financials. However, CRM system data can be less reliable and often contain blank fields or flawed entries from staff frustrated by the volume of inputs required. Accounting professionals tend to be detail-oriented and pride themselves on accuracy. Data entry staff are less concerned with precision. Sales and marketing managers value nuance over decimals. These conflicting work goals complicate business processes and interpersonal relationships. Accounting staff are frustrated by the data provided by sales and marketing. Sales and marketing resist the details required for the accounting teams and demand simpler, faster systems. Systems that try to integrate more complex issues such as configure-price-quote (CPQ), order management, commissions and incentives, referral fees, expense claims, and credit card disputes can cause even more data confusion and conflict. Taber...

Preparing Your Staff Members for a Successful Q4

Q4 is more about planning for the upcoming year than scrambling to save the current one. Whether 2014 was financially lucrative, or a year devoted to longer term investments in infrastructure and R&D, it provides an opportunity to take stock and confirm the direction for next year. Transparency and communication with staff is crucial to maintaining morale and enthusiasm. The vision of company leadership is often not clear to the worker. A five-year time horizon, typical for CEO decision making, is not the focus of a manager disappointed by the first six months’ sales. The expectations concerning the bottom line are not necessarily what is most important. The company may have invested substantially in R&D, for example, with a return expected in future years. Convey the company strategy to staff so that they understand that goals are being met although the profit and loss statement may imply otherwise. Les McKeon of Inc. emphasizes the need to analyze the high and low points of the past year. Include staff and invite their feedback. Transparent communication involves openly discussing operations or cultural factors that can be improved, and planning ways to do so. Review of poor performing areas is crucial to identify future improvements. By identifying areas of improvement for the upcoming year, management and staff can begin strategizing as to how to effect change. Paul R. Lawrence, in the Harvard Business Review, suggests that removing the blind spots, providing plenty of lead time, and supporting staff through a slower change process can reduce resistance to new ideas. With the hard work completed, congratulate staff and take time to celebrate. The...

How to Prevent Data Breach Amid a Hacker Popular World

The greatest security risk to companies currently is data breach. According to IBM Security Services 2014 intelligence data, there were 1.5 million cyber attacks in the US in 2013. The financial consequences for a company are, primarily, loss of productivity and damage to reputation. However, there are also substantial costs associated with forensics, technical support, and regulatory requirements. Technologies such as the cloud, prolific mobile devices, and growing corporate networks for the communication and storage of data is the focus of increasing hacker activity. IBM emphasizes that establishing effective data security requires significant investment. Assessing an organization’s current vulnerability to threats and risk tolerance is essential. Four steps are recommended for a data breach prevention strategy. Assess company data. Some information requires more security and limited access, such as employee personal data and financial information. Decide who requires access to which data, and adopt security measures accordingly. Don’t store nonessential information. The New York Times reported on the infamous breach of the retailer Target. The breach revealed that the company was unnecessarily storing the four-digit pin numbers of customer debit cards, effectively, a gift for the hacker. Develop a plan and a budget. This will involve the input of IT professionals, managers, and senior decision makers. Company leaders are often unaware of current threats and the costs involved in adequately securing an organization’s data. The input of IT experts and managers can bridge the knowledge gap and deliver the required resources to prevent cyber-attacks. Prepare for the worst and develop an emergency response plan. This may involve setting up alternative work processes in another location and duplicating important data...

Evaluating the Importance of Proper Security Clearance in the IT Financial Industry

Many employees of financial companies have access to sensitive customer information such as phone numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, income and credit histories, and even social security numbers. All the information a person would need to commit fraud. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial companies to employ policies to provide security and confidentiality with respect to sensitive customer information. According to Sergeant James Humbucker of Veterans Today, approximately three million people possess security clearance in the US. Additionally, private contracting or consulting firms hold 1.5 million security clearances. One out of every thousand are estimated to compromise the information that they have access to. Security clearances are typically used by governments and industries to allow access to classified information. The majority of IT positions, particularly in the finance industry, require security clearance, which can be obtained for individuals or groups. Different organizations may have varying levels of clearance, depending on the information that they collect. The types of security clearances are Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmentalized Information, and Single Scope Background Investigation. Employees must meet certain character, criminal, and credit history requirements to attain clearance. The higher the clearance level, the stricter the requirements. US businesses and individuals are targets for white collar crime, terrorism, and espionage. It is vital to a company’s reputation to ensure that the internal risk of compromised sensitive financial information is minimized with thorough employee background checks, security clearances, and strict controls on employee access to sensitive financial information. An identity access management system can control the access to data. Employees, depending on their profile, are only able to access certain levels...

Get Your IT Career on Track with These Four Tips

The warning signs are hard to miss. You may have been passed over for promotion, or you may feel stagnant and stuck in a rut. When the feeling that you are less than dynamic in your current position does not abate after a significant period, it may be time to proactively change your trajectory. Networking is always advisable, and joining industry groups such as the Association of Information Technology Professionals can broaden your horizons and change your perspective. The IT world is constantly evolving and staying on top of industry news can invigorate your outlook. An objective perspective can help you formulate the best strategy depending on your circumstances. Rich Hein of IT News presents some warning signs that your IT career needs adjusting and how to do it. If important projects and clients are not coming your way, or you have sensed criticism, you may have lost favor among your peers and colleagues. Take an objective perspective. Have you reached a comfort zone that has made you complacent? If you have lost enthusiasm, expanding your knowledge or taking a break may provide impetus to jump-start your creativity. Try engaging in industry trends and exploring activities that interest you. Attend an IT conference. Increase your industry knowledge and share it with colleagues by social media or through company channels. It is difficult to judge your own performance if you don’t receive feedback. It is also difficult to remain engaged, to know your strengths, and to improve upon weaknesses. Talk to your manager or your peers. There may be an interest by others to institute feedback mechanisms that can allow...