by Keith Hanley, Connected Retail Lead , MJ Flood Technology.
I have spent some time recently visiting high streets and shopping malls in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway to get a sense of the prevalence of customer facing in-store or in-window digital technology. I wanted to compare my experience to other cities around Europe where digital signage has become the norm rather than the exception.
What I found was significantly less than what I expected. In a world of increasing high street and online competition, you would expect to find more retailers trying to influence and entice footfall from their windows with dynamic digital attention-grabbing content. Instead, I saw plenty of lightboxes with printed material but no moving revolving digital content to catch the eye of the passer by.
So why in the age of the constantly connected consumer, the millennial and the emerging native digital generation does bricks and mortar retail seem slow to adopt digital marketing and digital visual strategy? Every other major European city has realised that unless content is rich and immersive and constantly evolving you are not resonating with the modern consumer. Do we need to challenge some existing retailer perceptions around digital, perceptions such as:
The cost of high and standard brightness digital screens and content management systems has reduced significantly over the last couple of years. Despite this, there still seems to be a reluctance to introduce screens into an area where they can have the most impact, windows. You would have to assume that there is still a perception in the sector that digital is more expensive than standard print costs.
In an effort to debunk this theory we participated in an exercise with one of our clients which evaluated the cost of print versus digital. This client used printed window displays which they changed once a week. We looked at the costs for new artwork, the printing of advertisements and the cost to physically swap out the printed panels once a week. We then compared it to the cost of a digital signage solution as a monthly operational expense spreading the cost over 3 years to include all hardware, licensing and support outlays.
Not only was the digital option cheaper to run on a weekly basis but it allowed the client to be more dynamic and strategic in terms of the ad copy they were running in the windows.
Content and Content Management
Another significant barrier to digital seems to be the creation and management of content. A retailer’s primary concern is not the creation and management of content, for many retailers they simply do not have large teams of marketers designing and distributing immersive digital content. I think that it is up to service providers in this space to offer turnkey solutions to retailers such as, content design, content management, distribution, and support. I believe a marriage of creative and technology can help retailers not only dip their toe into the opportunity that digital provides. But also provide valuable feedback on what content is working and resonating with customers while also driving footfall and sales.
The Pace of Technological Advancement
When considering what digital strategy suits you as a retailer it can be difficult to decide where to start. Digital signage, in-store interactivity, self-serve, omnichannel versus multichannel, virtual, augmented or mixed reality, artificial intelligence or maybe testing a bot or two!
Is the pace of change the largest disincentive when it comes implementing a digital strategy? Wherever possible I think service providers need to bring retailers on a low cost and low risk digital adoption journey. Service providers need to be able to assist their retail clients to build the necessary business cases to adopt digital through pilots, proof of concepts and some old fashion trial and error.
For the survival of the high street as we know it, maintaining relevancy to the modern consumer through digitisation in its many forms is imperative. As service providers with an interest in doing business with retailers, it is incumbent upon us to support adoption.
by Guido Marchetti, Cloud Lead, MJ Flood Technology
Happy Cyber Security Awareness month to you all. Most of us don’t even realise that this is an actual thing, but it is. Throughout October you will see plenty of content like this blog, that will focus on security threats and explaining that if you aren’t already, why you should be trying to manage your security. I thought a good place to start would be to look at the top 5 cyber security threats for 2018.
1. Phishing: Is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. It is the core reason that corporate ID’s get compromised which can then lead to a man in the middle attack. This is where rather than trying to get personal access to cash, they impersonate a c level and ask for a transfer of cash. We have seen 5 clients in the last 6 months see these attacks.
2. Ransomware: A type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. We have seen a few of these attacks recently too and more are being targeted at SME’s
3. The Cloud: While we all move services to the cloud industry experts are growing concerned that the cloud could be targeted. We have already seen a denial of service attack happen to services like Netflix. Is it a matter of time before your O365 or GMAIL is targeted? That said, these companies have significant resources to challenge these risks.
4. GDPR: We all know this by now and while we are yet to see a breach, industry experts are waiting to see the result of the first one. We are seeing a huge amount of companies still confused by this and taking action to remedy what they believe is their challenge.
5. Cryptocurrency Mining: This new threat is the infection of devices to command CPU power, in order for criminals to steal bitcoin.
So now that we’ve outlined the top 5 risks as per a survey carried out by AlienVault and reference in this TechRepublic article. I can verify, that we are seeing a growing interest in security across all our clients from SME to Enterprise. In fact, the last three clients that I have worked with this quarter were all security related projects. The surprising thing is that they were all concerned about the same issues.
Identity management, Multifactor Authentication, Device management, and data protection. We assisted our clients by listening to their concerns and then helping them understand their risk landscape. When thinking about security threats, unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will kill all. Protection of cyber threats requires an understanding of your threat landscape, which usually is quite similar to a few nuances per client. Here is some advice on how to view the threat landscape.
Most companies have Active Directory in their business, which manages access to applications. Others have applications that are hosted or independent of Active directory. Passwords are the key here, and having a policy is one thing, but enforcing it can be very different. I have had clients admit they share passwords, I have seen them written on post-its stuck-on screens (I swear to god I have), and I understand this because it is human nature to trust each other. But therein lies the risk, people are trusting by nature and if an email looks legitimate enough the reality is that your end users will click on it. Therefore, end user education is required to teach users what to look for, but you need to help them too. If you introduce a layer of ID management above your AD, you can assist.
We advise clients to look at Azure AD P1 to layer over your AD. We do this because it allows us to set conditions for access. For example, we can identify trusted IP ranges that are known and allow access. But if you have an identity breach the hacker will not have the ability to login from the allowed IP range. If in this instance an unknown range attempts to login, the Multi Factor Authentication will kick in as a condition of access.
This authentication process verifies that the user attempting to login is legitimate and requires 6-digit number text to their phone or an app installed to gain access. If a user gets this notification and didn’t try to log in, you now know you have a problem. This will reduce the standard 225 days to discover you have the breach. You can then act to remedy the problem immediately.
Device management score to your security strategy. Let’s start with the ones we know all too well, your Windows Estate. If you haven’t already standardized for technical reasons to Windows 10 find a way of doing it. The challenge you face here is that the older the estate the more vulnerable it is to threats 2 & 5 in the list. Updates and security patches are core to preventing malicious software from getting onto your device. Managing the update and maintenance of one platform is far easier than managing multiple platforms and versions. Anti-virus is key to making sure that it works and is effective with its threat updates. Ensuring that the latest threats are always covered is an essential part of your plan. Having an AV that updates once a quarter is far too little, updates should be daily making sure you always have the latest threat signatures covered.
We are also starting to see device management fringe into data protection with more people enquiring about Encryption. Another reason we advise Intune and Windows 10 is the ability to enable Bit locker on your Windows estate. This will encrypt your drives and make sure even if the device is lost or stolen the data stored on it is safe.
Then, of course, there is your mobile estate of devices. We have all let IOS and Android devices into our workplaces because they enable productivity on the move for those who want it, but this brings additional risk. Amazingly most companies we deal with don’t even think about the risk, they just assume everything is ok. Devices are where a possible data breach might happen. An end user who can access files and email off one of these devices can then move that data into another service without you knowing. Unless of course, you start to consider controlling the devices and the business applications on them. Addressing access to business systems and data should form a large part of your security strategy and if it doesn’t start to think about it now.
This is becoming more of a conversation over the last 18 months, but still customers are unsure of what they should be doing. When it comes to GDPR seek legal advice on what elements of your data are covered by GDPR. Then make sure you have the services in place that enable data protection. Office365 has a GDPR centre built into most services that allow you to manage the retention periods etc. of data in Office365. As well as this, Microsoft Azure Information Protection allows you to create labels for your data and set a list of rules to protect it based on these labels. For example, if you don’t want a document to be emailed outside of the company, that is a rule you can create. If you want to prevent the printing of finance files , this is another rule you can make and the list can go on. GDPR has brought data protection into focus, but we should have a data protection practice regardless of this because a breach of any type could be damaging for your brand reputation.
As for Point 5, this is similar to ransomware. In order to protect against such activity, the correct software and user awareness is also required. Microsoft Technology’s ATA or Advanced threat analytics is the service we recommend to our clients. It monitors both technical and behavioral anomalies, taking into account known and trusted devices and highlighting any concerns it uncovers to the user to address. Again, decreasing the time required to identify and respond to the risk. See this clever video for more information.
Microsoft technology combines 4 components into one service that addresses most, but not all of the above. It will help you to address the majority and if today you’re only addressing the minority then Microsoft EM&S and MJ Flood Technology could be a nice partnership for you to consider.
People often ask me what I think is the most important thing to protect against, and in reality, it all is. But if I had to say which ones give you the most value, it’s the identity. Control identity and you can control access which is half the challenge. In my experience, however, doing it separately leaves you vulnerable and tackling the issue as a combination of items will help to reduce your risk drastically.
If you need help with your strategy or would like to understand how you could be better protected, feel free to reach out to myself or a member of the MJFT team.
by Pat O’Neill, Enterprise Consultant and Account Manager, MJ Flood Technology.
I have been in the industry for over 20 years and sleep well at night knowing that what we have recommended and installed, firstly works. But is hard fastened and will reduce the need to constantly support, make changes and cause excessive management. One of the fundamentals I have found that is most neglected and given the least amount of focus in a solution design is backup and DR. I have endeavored to ask “What about Back up and DR?” Then the flood gates open into question after question to look at options, RPO/RTO, ON-site, Cloud, Clustering or replication Synchronous and asynchronous DR replication. The list goes on as I am sure you are all aware. I recently discovered that HPe Simplivity answers all of the fundamentals and more. The current trends and focuses are on application development for businesses to work faster, cleaner, surefired, flexible and resilient. Cloud technologies assist with this greatly. I have watched as this has gained momentum, and in today’s market the Hardware vendors are playing catch up rather than pioneering.
MJ Flood Technology has been a HPE Partner for nearly 10 years, each new product release is predictably strong and answering the fundamentals and cornerstone of organisations ICT platform for business. The new release of HPe Simplivity is no exception with a few added extras which are more than just useful addons- Back up, the unknown soldier. He is always there somewhere, in the background, checked on every now and then, in the event of his services being needed. For the most part, Backup is its own entity 3rd party application/solution/even outsourced.
We have all heard of converged systems, the bringing together of compute and storage under a single management pane of glass, but that’s what they are, multiple layers under a single management.The new Hyperconverged is defined as a way to enable cloudlike economics and scale without compromising the performance, reliability, and availability you expect in your own data centre.However, this level of convergence only simplifies the purchase and upgrade cycle. It fails to address ongoing operational challenges that have been introduced with the advent of virtualization, Backup, Disaster recovery and High availability. A recent report from Forrester on the economic impact of Simplivity shows that HPE SimpliVity resulted in reduced costs of 69%.
HPe Simplivity is Integrated into and managed by VMware (or now with Hyper-V) with all the enhanced features expected by a Hyperconverged Solution, including optimised LAN/WAN Clustering for High availability solutions into a single, integrated all-flash solution. HPE SimpliVity 380 offers a full suite of traditional IT functions including unified global VM-centric management, data protection, cloud integration, built-in backup, and disaster recovery. The HPE SimpliVity is a hyperconverged system designed to provide enterprise system capabilities with cloud-like economics.
A recent report from Forrester on the economic impact of Simplivity shows that HPE SimpliVity resulted in reduced costs of 69%.
For me the most interesting point that came from the report was backup. After implementing HPE SimpliVity and leveraging the built-in data protection capabilities of the platform, backup administrators saved 5 hours every day that they previously spent confirming backups and resolving problems. A recent report from IDC said that “Data protection remains one of the most problematic, labour -intensive, and least loved activities in the datacenter”. Because the HPE SimpliVity deduplicates, compresses, and optimizes data the first time it is written to disk and maintains it in that state for its lifecycle, backup copies are already deduplicated and compressed, thereby eliminating the need for third-party software or purpose-built backup appliances.
Because traditional backup/recovery is both labour intensive and inadequate to meet business requirements, some IT organisations are transitioning their data protection scheme away from the defined third-party backup model to a model where data protection is built into the compute/storage stack. The client/server era was characterised by discrete technology stacks, such as server, storage, networks, and applications; backup/recovery was one of these application stacks managed largely as its own entity.
HPe Simplivity eliminates this dependency. The HPE SimpliVity approach to data protection is to provide all the benefits of a full backup and data replication at the speed of a snapshot.The methodology is also an excellent defense against ransomware because all prior images are saved as full images, permitting recovery at a point prior to the ransomware (or any other) infection.HPE SimpliVity VM-centric backups are extremely quick because they were designed into the platform to keep backups simple while maintaining performance. The backup set is deduplicated and compressed within the HPE SimpliVity Data Virtualization Platform (DVP). With local backups, no data is moved. Only a copy of the metadata is created with pointers to the original data. HPE SimpliVity VM-level backups do not challenge or impact the performance or availability of the VM. HPE SimpliVity native backup is a vast improvement over the traditional storage array or virtual machine snapshot-based backups.
The HPE Simplivity also does not take away from off site backups, cloud based backups or an additional layer of granularity for restores, HPe Simplivity is designed with full integration with independent products like Veeam.
There is a HPe White Paper for the full integration at all levels with Veeam particularly interesting is where the Hyperconverged solution is not a WAN/LAN Cluster solution, but DR is done in the traditional array for off-site replication in the event of a restore being required. Replicating VMs from SimpliVity to non-SimpliVity infrastructure where SimpliVity has been deployed in one location, but not at a DR site, it is possible to use any server with VMware vSphere and accompanying storage as a target for VM replicas managed by Veeam Backup & Replication.
HPE SimpliVity 380 named CRN’s Hyperconverged Infrastructure Product of the Year! 2017
According to CRN: The offering is a “game-changer” in part thanks to “its ability to optimize data from the very first I/O,” said Dan Molina, chief technology officer of San Diego-based Nth Generation Computing. “When the first byte of data gets created, it’s already being optimized by using data compression and data deduplication. For many other products, that’s an after-thought.”
Interested in finding out more about Hpe Simplivity? Email us at email@example.com.
by Guido Marchetti, Cloud Lead, MJ Flood Technology.
If you are a business leader, a CIO or indeed any C-level executive that deals with technology in your company, I want you to take a moment to really think about this. “How are you measuring your IT department?” and “is it fair?” What do I mean by this? Well, that’s quite simple really, we’ve seen a change in how we deploy our IT systems in this modern world, but have we started to change our view of IT in line with it?
Let me expand this for you. In the past, most IT directors and their teams were measured on one metric and one only. UPTIME!! Uptime is the period of time when a computer, system, etc. is being used without any problems. This was all that businesses cared about, whether or not the system was available. This metric was born in a world where hardware and software were king, and we deployed advanced site to site connections with our San’s and virtual machines replicating between the pair in an attempt to achieve the target uptime (if indeed defined).
In today’s world we are seeing the same solutions, but some are using cloud now for failover. It is becoming more and more common for people to shift services and applications to cloud based services, where SLA’s are 99.9% which is roughly 8 hours of planned downtime a year (so I am told by industry experts ????).
Therein lies the clue, if cloud is being utilized and adopted like we are seeing more and more, reliability is being shifted to the service provider. So how can businesses measure IT fairly? That is also simple, it should be measured by business impact.
By moving the posts for your IT team to measure impact within the business, you give them a totally new focus and lease of life. They can stop worrying about the plumbing and instead focus on the way technology can change the business, it’s processing and ultimately drive more productivity. This also changes the perceived value of your IT team. If you are worried about uptime you probably still view your IT as a necessary evil.
If you however, look at your IT as a business enabler, then you are already measuring them on impact. You are the market leaders in adoption, you tend not to wait to see others do it, you see the value and move fast. You are seeing the benefits already of modern technologies and they will continue to get better, at which point everyone else is playing catch up.
If you are still stuck in the old way of thinking, then perhaps you should consider a mindset change. If you don’t, you may find that your IT strategy is tainted with fear, largely due to the IT team not feeling supported by the business and avoiding modern technologies. This is because now the lights being on isn’t in their direct control anymore. Companies suffering from this mentality are late adopters of modern technologies and tend not to see advantages until everyone else has already started using them.
Too often in my job, I meet IT managers and teams who are worried about cloud adoption, saying that the business measures me on uptime. I don’t trust the cloud to do that! Don’t restrict your IT team and throw money at old technologies. Empower your IT team and reset their success dial, measure them on business impact and you will reap the rewards.
By Guido Marchetti, Cloud Lead, MJ Flood Technology
Every time I’ve listened to the radio over the last two weeks I’ve heard people talking about Fortnite. Similarly, I had a conversation with a client during a business meeting about the same topic and everyone seems to share the same concerns. Is this bad for my child?
It talks about a nine year old girl who was addicted to the game Fortnite, to the extent that she wet her pants to continue playing the game rather than go to the bathroom. She is now in REHAB receiving treatment to help break her cycle.
I fear that this will kick off another cycle of pitchfork carrying parents calling for all types of intervention and legislation to be passed as I have heard in the past. This, of course, isn’t helped by recent announcements such as the World Health Organisation classifying “gaming disorder”. You can almost feel the hysteria building. I am not dismissing this by the way, it is a real challenge, but it needs some real perspective and for people to start taking responsibility.
I will stop here and just declare that I am a parent, and I share the concerns of all parents when it comes to electronics and allowing access to certain things, and this goes beyond just games and consoles. Let’s face it I grew up in the 80’s and according to studies over the last 10 years I’m lucky to be here, there was lead based paint on my cot!! Which I chewed ???? I am reliably told.
The point is that times have changed and so have the responsibilities of parenting with these new threats. Back to my childhood, we were told to beware of strangers, if your being bullied to tell someone (that stopped once you went home. See here for another article cyber-bullying and if you were lucky enough to have a games console it was shared, it was not in your room and not as connected to the internet as it is today.
Fast forward to my home today and I have an Xbox, one that is connected to the internet and has access to a library of free and paid for games, but it is mine. My son can play it yes, he also wants one of his own but he isn’t getting it because we already have one. He has Games and a profile on the device, but it’s controlled and here comes the free advice to all parents who are struggling with controlling access to games and online content. Oh and yes he plays Fortnite!!!
1. The Parent should control the Console:
Let’s all be honest with each other, our Kids cannot afford these consoles. We buy them or give them access to them, along with IPads and other wonderful toys/silence tools. Every child knows what YouTube and Netflix is, but as a parent it is our responsibility to control these things. Simple rules can help with this such as, no devices in bedrooms and instead consoles are kept in shared rooms only and that’s just a start. But if you want real control you need to configure the devices, here is a simple thing on an Xbox for example.
Create a parent account (you control) and password protect it, to keep those tech-savvy kids away from the controlling account. Next set up a Family account and then add your kid’s profile to it. It’s quite simple and if you google search Microsoft Family you will find how to pages. You can find it here: https://support.xbox.com/en-IE/browse/xbox-one/security/Family%20settings
2: Enforce Controls:
Once the account is added, you can control content and set age limits so that any inappropriate games, videos etc. are blocked and require a parent’s password to allow access. And even then, you can allow access once and then use it as a treat later ????. You can also block their chat capabilities and hide information about them from everyone else on the network.
My favorite feature is screen time, using family you can decide on the time and days that your child can sign in and play on the device. You can have a zero-time allocation on Monday – Thursday as I do with my son, and then on Friday-Sunday he gets 1.5 hours per day max. When his time is up, the console kicks him offline and off the console. If he wants more screen time he must do chores or help out in some meaningful way.
I have proudly heard my son explaining to his mates, that his screen time is over and that he might see them later online or even better outside. You will be surprised at how accepting kids are when it’s the norm or becomes the norm.
3: Take responsibility
Most online services such as Apple, Sony etc have similar services to help us to protect our kids on the devices that we buy them, so find them and make those changes now. Here is a sobering fact for you all. Access to these games and online services, Games Consoles, Social media sites etc. studies have shown that allowing kids to interact with these have shown increases in serotonin. That is the same release that one would feel when drinking, smoking, taking drugs, so before you hand a device over or continue allowing uncontrolled access, just think about what you are doing.
I understand that I know a bit more about technology than most, I do after all work in it, but at the same time I know very little about education, but I take a vested interest in my children’s education and help them along their way. We need to do the same for our children’s online lives, if we give them access to a connected world then we must protect them from all the bad things that can happen to them.
If the above all seems like too much effort than buy one of these then google search an appliance that controls their access, I also have one of these and it helps a lot. I just want to help people with this challenge. The best of luck to you all ????
In the modern age every aspect of our lives is competing for our time, which is becoming more and more scarce as we move forward. Being productive, focused and informed within your business can be a challenge at times.
I meet with companies and clients who are still struggling with this daily. Modern technologies are making individuals more efficient, at least those who understand how to use the technology. But how can you make this expand across your business? I watched a video lately Drawing the Future on the WSJ site which was the CEO of Slack discussing this very topic, and he hit the nail on the head in the second part. It comes down to an alignment of direction. What does that mean?? It’s simple, show everyone in your company the direction you wish to move towards, and then empower them with tools that enable productivity.
I give clients the same message when we are discussing how to embrace modern productivity tools. I focus on the business use cases because without a relevance to end-user productivity tools can just end up confusing people and making noise in their day. Choosing how you wish to work as a company will also have a profound effect. In the video you will have seen people who are individuals using tools like email to share information with certain people, this habit is so old, yet still widely used. Tools Like Slack, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Team really do have the potential to end internal email chatter and misuse, but only if you embrace them.
While I am aware of Slack and Hangouts I don’t use them, I do however use Teams as an Office365 user its free for me, and as a Microsoft Partner, well it just should be done really. But how it has started to make my life easier and better is profound, I hate when a colleague emails me something they wish to collaborate on now, I want them to go into teams. I have a few small teams I work from and the good news is that my mailbox is full of client related stuff, and not stuffed with internal noise.
My collaboration is now focused and on Point, I can centrally see, edit and comment on content quickly and effectively. I can have a conference call within the app, and its available on all my devices. I have even brought other applications into the App. It’s becoming my one pane of glass and quickly becoming more valuable to me than email. The future of collaboration for me lies in these type of services, Microsoft previewed their meeting room of the future at Build this week see here https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/7/17327596/microsoft-meeting-room-demo-build-2018 This will use teams specific hardware and AI to enrich actual meetings in real time, but you can see the reliance on a centralized data store that all team members have access too.