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Technology Trends in 2019

Important Technology 2019

The innovations & updates to expect from the world of technology in 2019

While we made predictions about the latest electronics in preparation for CES 2019, our team started discussing the most important technology trends to expect in 2019.

In the last few years, innovation happened often and at a fast pace. In 2019, we anticipate an equally impactful year in the world of tech.

As a custom software and IT company, amshot is always looking to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest technology. So, we have picked out a few tech trends that we predict will take center stage in the year to come.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) & MACHINE LEARNING

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and computer automation are constantly becoming more deeply ingrained in day-to-day business operations.

Machine learning is saving hours of human time spent programming information as computer systems are taught to interpret data and make decisions based on past successes and failures in a process quite similar to human learning.

In recent years, machine learning has been able to mimic the human brain through artificial neural networks which can be woven together in complex layers. This allows for “deep learning” to occur, meaning that computers can process information and self-improve far more quickly and efficiently.

This year, AI will become more tightly interwoven into our daily lives as the capabilities of AI assistants become increasingly more sophisticated, efficient, and accessible.

MULTI-CLOUD & HYBRID CLOUD 

Cloud services have come a long way since they first debuted about a decade ago. Used by both individuals and a wide range of organizations, cloud technologies are used for storing data, hostings websites and blogs, downloading software, audio and video streaming, and more.

For a crash course on cloud technology, read our blog, but here’s what you can expect from the cloud this year.

Multi-cloud strategy is the use of multiple cloud computing services from any number of vendors. A multi-cloud environment could be all-private, all-public, or a hybrid. A hybrid cloud combines elements of both private and public clouds.

The tech community expects hybrid clouds to become the model of choice for businesses in 2019.

While a public cloud is available to the general public, a private cloud can exist either on the internet or on a private internal network and is only available to select users. Hybrid cloud computing service allows files to transfer between private and public clouds.

Plus, hybrid cloud services also include a feature known as cloud bursting. An application or resource can run within the private cloud and “burst” into the public cloud when there is a spike in demand.

BLOCKCHAIN

In 2019, we expect the use of blockchain to grow in behind-the-scenes development and in publicized applications. IBM has already developed its own blockchain platform that lets developers build decentralized apps.

Also, there is a lot of chatter about gaming platforms set to release within the next year that will reward players in cryptocurrency and allow them to use those crypto tokens to purchase new games and merchandise.

The popularity of Bitcoin (blockchain’s most forward-facing application) first brought attention to the technology that was developed as a ledger for the cryptocurrency. The transaction information could be distributed, but not copied.

While blockchain was a super hot topic in 2018, some members of the tech community became skeptical of the technology when Bitcoin prices fell.

However, there is still a huge amount of potential value to discover for a distributed ledger that’s protected by encryption and provides an indelible record of transactional activity.

INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT)

As “smart” products grow in popularity, we find ourselves in an increasingly connected environment with millions of devices. 2019 will likely see a rapid increase in IoT platforms, with vendors narrowing focus onto specific use cases.

Quick recap: the Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of connecting any and all devices to the internet so that they can communicate with each other.

In our previous blog about the IoT, we looked at how the expansion of these connected devices also presents a new cybersecurity threat.

In 2018, cyber attacks targeted home devices such as burglar alarms, security cameras, and door locks. In 2019, as traffic lights and public transportation systems join the IoT, we expect cybercrime to target smart city implementations.

Plus, there will likely be an increase in the practice of bundling service offerings by businesses as well as the emergence of a market for IoT managed services.

WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY (5G & BEYOND)

2019 will see the launch of 5G, which will be very different from previous generations of wireless technology.

The applications for 5G are broader than prior generations as it includes several wireless technologies such as sub-6GHz, mmWave, and NB-IoT. Cell towers equipped with 5G will have a much greater capacity, allowing more devices to communicate at a given time.

Due to its greater number of connectivity options, higher bandwidth, lower latency, and other improvements, 5G will provide newer and better ways to connect as well as new applications. It will make way for improvements in hybrid cloud technology and allow for greater developments in the IoT.

APPLICATION ARCHITECTURE IS CHANGING

From increased network speed and reliability to the development of cloud technologies that have revolutionized the way we store data, the last few years have seen dramatic innovations in the world of technology.

As our technologies continue to grow and evolve, the architectural designs of our applications must change to meet new demands.

Based on our research, there are four main principles that architectures must meet to stay relevant in modern technology:

1. Direct focus toward increasing the speed at which data is delivered to applications.

To avoid slowing down the system, the architecture must be memory- and network-centric to keep the data closest to where the computing is occurring.

2. There will likely be a rise in computing architectures offering workload isolation.

This allows different types of workloads to run on the same deployment and the same set of servers without competition. Plus, it keeps applications operating at optimal levels and makes it easy for developers to independently scale parts of the system.

3. Data should be available at the point of interaction.

Not all data can be on the device and must be properly protected, but for the most part, data needs to be on the device as much as possible. The next generation of applications requires dynamic flexibility, and the key to that is data on the edge.

4. We need deployment-unaware computing architectures to take full advantage of the flexibility offered by the cloud.

Deployment-unaware means that applications can run in any environment (cloud, multi-cloud, on premise, bare metal, and virtualized containers), removing the limitations traditional databases experienced on the cloud due to vertical scaling.

 

SharePoint for Success

Why your business should be using Microsoft SharePoint

Communication amongst coworkers shouldn’t require a trip down the hall. Teamwork shouldn’t mean mile-long email threads. And project management shouldn’t involve searching through files for the latest version. If these are issues you’re facing at work, you need Microsoft SharePoint.

Here at amshot, we understand that collaboration is a major key to business success. Microsoft SharePoint offers document sharing and project management tools that streamline communication. But, that’s just scratching the surface. Keep reading to learn more about SharePoint and what it can do for your business.

What is Microsoft SharePoint?

If you searched for Microsoft SharePoint on Google, you’d find a few different definitions and a lot of technical jargon. But, we hate sounding like robots.

In plain English, Microsoft SharePoint is a collaborative server environment that enables document and data sharing within a company. Typically, SharePoint is set up as a series of intranet sites. Each site corresponds to a different department within the company.

Now, onto the specifics. SharePoint can be broken down into three primary components. Each one contributes unique functions and builds upon the previous element:

1. Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) provides basic functionality. This includes user access to versioning, email alerts, and shared calendars.

2. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) builds upon the WSS foundation to produce SharePoint’s interactive functionality. Allowing users to employ a wide range of applications to use in different business scenarios. This includes (but is not limited to) Collaboration, Documents Management, Records Management, Workflow, and Personalization.

3. Microsoft Search Server is an Enterprise Search engine that offers in-depth indexing and searching capabilities within your intranet site. This can be integrated into a MOSS Web-based interface.

Why your business should be using Microsoft SharePoint

Get Better Business Results

SharePoint provides many advantages when it comes to optimizing your operations. As a provider of customized SharePoint sites, we make it our business to stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Here are some of our favorite features and how they can benefit your business:

 

VERSIONING SAVES YOU TIME & MONEY
Never waste time searching for the latest version when you could be working. SharePoint automatically keeps a version history of all documents and data in the system. Have you ever accidentally deleted part of a project? With SharePoint, you’ll stay stress-free because you can revert projects to an earlier draft at any time.

EASY TO USE
Role-based access keeps your team on task. User permissions allow you to decide who sees what and can be edited at any point. With 7+ compliance standards met out-of-the-box, SharePoint makes it easy to get your intranet started. Plus, designated users can have access to modify the site and further encrypt sensitive data.

UNMATCHED RELIABILITY
Not only is SharePoint user-friendly, but it also boasts a financially-backed 99.9% SLA (Service Level Agreement). This means users are guaranteed reliability and quick uptime from their intranets. Also, Microsoft takes several security measures to ensure user data protection, which includes: data encryption, regular backups, customer-selected regional data location, identity protection, not disclosing data center locations, and signing the Data Protection Agreement.

STAY ALERT!
Keep your teams informed on the latest project developments. SharePoint lets business leaders manage alerts for their employees. And with the right user permissions, end-users can handle their own. Set alerts for calendar events, new uploads, document/data modification, and more.

FLEXIBLE SOFTWARE FOR OPTIMAL WORK
SharePoint intranet sites are totally customizable. From functionality to design, construct everything to fit your needs. The platform is also scalable and easily grows with your company. Plus, Office 365 and SharePoint Online supports access to your intranet from any device.

Customizing with Care

At amshot, our team has extensive experience in creating and deploying SharePoint intranet sites. Even more, our software development team can customize it to suit your needs. We will build it to your specifications, down to fonts, colors, photos, permissions, and the widgets that are included on the site.

Microsoft SharePoint is a great tool to manage your company’s workflow and streamline collaboration. It can increase productivity and eliminate clutter in project management. To figure out if SharePoint is the right solution for your business, Find Your FIT.

Virtually Official

What is a vCIO and why does your business need one?

As a company that started as a small business, we know how much work goes into running a successful start-up. Cultivating leads, handling business technology, hiring the right employees, executing client work, managing policies and benefits—it’s exhausting just thinking about it. With all the tasks a growing business is responsible for, you shouldn’t have to worry about how your daily technology needs will be handled.

amshot can do that for you.

A Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) is an outsourced IT service that provides your company with the skills and capabilities of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) without the cost of staffing the position full-time. Keep reading to find out the perks of having a vCIO.

  • TIME IS MONEY
    Efficiency and productivity go hand-in-hand at the office. By utilizing a vCIO, you free up time and resources, previously dedicated to managing the company’s IT needs, which can be reallocated to promote various aspects of business development. Additionally, without having to micro-manage IT internally, your sanity gets a bit of a break as well.
  • SECURITY GUARD
    We have said it before and we’ll say it again: cybersecurity is not to be taken lightly. Every day, hackers are becoming bolder and smarter, so you should not leave your company’s security up to chance. Securing business data and information against cyber attacks is one of the vCIO’s most important roles in an organization. A vCIO works to keep all of your tech up-to-date along with creating security policies and implementing security patches.
  • CUSTOM > BASIC
    When it comes to reporting and recommendations, it is far more helpful if business analyses are tailored to your business instead of made with a widely-distributed template. With the various functionalities of business technology, it can be difficult to keep track of what is working and what isn’t while also trying to make sense of the mountains of data produced. A vCIO can provide customized reports of your current IT setup that showcase metrics and trends. Based on the reports and findings, the vCIO can also make recommendations for new software or technology to utilize at your business. The vCIO is an invaluable resource when considering new technology to invest in for your company.
  • SHOW ME THE MONEY
    While hiring a full-time CIO does free up time dedicated to your company’s IT needs, it would also come with a hefty price tag. The average salary for a CIO in the U.S. is more than $140,000 plus paid time off, insurance, and other benefits—not something a growing business can easily afford. Since a vCIO is an outsourced IT service, you will not have to pay an annual salary nor provide a benefits package. The increase in productivity is comparable when considering a CIO versus a vCIO, but the financial savings of utilizing a vCIO are huge.

The Bottom Line

Utilizing a vCIO can have a big impact on your company’s bottom line. Not only does this service allow you to focus on what you do best while we handle your IT needs, but it also implements a technology strategy that is proactive, not reactive. Too often we hear about huge IT issues and data breaches that stall productivity in an office. Luckily, we specialize in stress-free IT. amshot conducts regular maintenance to prevent issues and keep your business running smoothly instead of scrambling to fix problems as they arise.

If you want to find out if a vCIO is right for your company, set up a free consultation with amshot.

It’s Kind of a BIg Deal

The importance of Business Intelligence (BI) to companies of all sizes


We all want to know where our business is going, what we can expect for the future and, better yet, the margins of success we will see in the upcoming months. But in order to see the future, we need to know “the now” of said business. Business Intelligence (
BI) provides us with that knowledge whether your business is small, medium, or large—BI is a one-size-fits-all tool.

At amshot, we focus strongly on being able to customize software to meet the individual needs of our clients—and that includes BI. Keep reading for a crash course in all things BI and why it’s worthwhile.

BREAK IT DOWN NOW

The formal definition of Business Intelligence refers to tools, technologies, applications and practices used to collect, integrate, analyze, and present an organization’s raw data in order to create insightful and actionable business information. Basically, Business Intelligence is a system for turning your business data into info that can help you make informed business decisions. BI allows us to pinpoint areas of weakness and strength in real time to gain further insights and tackle any opportunity to enhance business output.

That was a lot of loaded words, so think of it as an update. Updates to a cellphone let users see what Apple or Samsung or Google have been working on to make their experience better. Each upgrade has new benefits such as new gadgets, faster loading speeds, increased battery life, etc. All of those changes were made by looking and analyzing the current, ongoing issues within the software. Business Intelligence is like a non-stop, ongoing update to your business that leads to more overall success.

HELP YOURSELF

There are numerous benefits of using BI. As we mentioned, it provides real-time feedback that allows businesses to identify and achieve efficiencies in their organization, but that’s not all. Our team looked at the ways BI helps businesses, and here are just a few that stood out to us:

  • More accuracy when reporting, analyzing and planning – No matter how much you do something, it won’t matter unless you are accurate on every account. BI allows you to organize data without the potential for manual error and make decisions in real time.
  • Faster analysis, planning, and reporting – Efficiency plays a big role in business profitability. BI allows companies to make business decisions in a more timely matter, especially under pressure. It consolidates a lot of data and gives us a single perspective.
  • Improved data quality – You know the saying “quality over quantity”? With BI, businesses have access to both. It gathers the entire quantity of big data and transforms that into accessible figures in a high quality way.
  • Increased competitive advantage – It is important to understand that Business Intelligence is not the same as competitive intelligence. BI scans internal data within your business, which leads to a competitive advantage, while competitive intelligence looks at other people’s business. Knowing everything about your current state of business and tackling the issues that arise puts you ahead of competitors on its own, even if you don’t know the ins-and-outs of your competitors’ business.
  • Reduced costs and increased revenues – Of course, this is the ultimate goal for any business. BI lets you determine who your customers are by collecting data at high speed, which allows businesses to know them inside and out. Understanding their consumer behavior can result in a faster point of sale in a more accurate way.

USE IT OR LOSE IT

The ability to focus on the current state of your business becomes increasingly easier when utilizing everything BI has to offer. Every company want to be aware of where they stand as an individual part of the larger market, and BI helps companies analyze their systems, employees, and functionality. While this type of technological support may be new to some industries, the opportunities for growth and profitability that BI provides should be considered by any business looking to upgrade.

No two businesses are alike—we know that. BI helps us make your business more successful by blending this cloud of big data with the individual needs our software can provide. BI is the overhead macho-man of business analytics that can help companies grow and succeed, and amshot can help implement it. Contact us for a free consultation.

Buy It or Customize It

Evaluating your company’s current software and the advantages of using custom software/applications

 

Off-the-shelf or tailor-made? The choice seems easy when it comes to clothes—Why would I wear something that just fits when I could wear something custom made for me?—but what about in terms of business software?

Originally, software allowed businesses to transition from manual to digital. Now in the digital age, most businesses couldn’t function without their applications. The business world uses a lot of software, but how many of those applications interact with one another? And when is it time to ditch the off-the-shelf software in favor of tailor-made software?

At amshot, we like to say we use technology as a tool to improve business results. Our software development services specifically focus on achieving efficiencies that promote profitability and business growth. Is custom software the right choice for your business? Read on below.

WELL-OILED MACHINES

Efficient business is good business. Software applications have streamlined many aspects of business and numerous options are available to be purchased off-the-shelf, but these generic versions of software aren’t a cure-all. In fact, they are often limited in their functions and rarely interact with other applications. This is where custom software comes in handy—it can bridge the gap between two applications or between what your software does and what you need it to do.

Custom software can help your business in many ways, but our team has determined that these are the biggest advantages of tailor-made applications:

  • Most efficient system possible: Custom software provides functions specific to the business that generic software simply isn’t capable of doing. Instead of using several off-the-shelf applications, custom software can do it all more efficiently.
  • Custom software grows with your business: Often times, generic software cannot keep up with a growing business because it isn’t flexible or scalable. Custom software is made to fit your business and is constantly maintained and adjusted as needed. Furthermore, businesses with multiple locations can be interconnected with software that communicates and shares data instead of stuck jumping through hoops with off-the-shelf products.
  • Say goodbye to repetitive tasks and manual entry: Humans aren’t perfect, and it may only take one typo to bring payroll to a screeching halt. Utilizing custom software allows applications to be created that replace monotonous tasks and are specific to the business, industry, and/or functions needed.
  • Up-to-date and secure: Outdated software might seem harmless, but it can actually leave your systems vulnerable to hackers. Custom software is ever-evolving and minimizes cybersecurity threats.

EENIE-MEENIE-MINIE-MO

While there are many advantages to utilizing software tailor-made to your business, it’s not always the right choice. Several factors can determine whether or not a company would benefit from custom software, so we have outlined how to evaluate your current software to see if customization would be a good fit for your business.

  • What does your company do, and how is it accomplished? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if off-the-shelf software fits your business needs. For example, restaurants typically don’t need a complex custom application, but companies in the oil & gas industry often do. Consider how many steps or applications are involved in daily tasks, how long it takes to finish them, and if there are any holes that off-the-shelf software can’t fill.
  • What size is your business? How many employees do you have? How much do you currently spend on software? Does your company operate locally or internationally? Is your business growing? These are all important questions to consider when deciding if custom software is right for you. Smaller businesses might not have the budget or need for custom applications, but if it’s in the cards for your business, they can seriously improve profitability.
  • Who will be using the software? Ask employees about your current software’s performance. Ask them if it makes jobs more efficient. Ask them how easy it is to use. The answers to these questions can help identify what your business is lacking and possible options for new or custom software.
  • What are your competitors using? If all of your top competitors are utilizing custom software and are out-performing your business, then it might be time to leave the generic software behind. However, if custom software wouldn’t improve the quality of your service or profitability, then it’s probably best to stick with off-the-shelf.

GOT SUPPORT?

Already using custom software, but need support + maintenance?
Your program doesn’t have to be amshot-built to be amshot-supported. Our development team has experience providing support and maintenance for existing applications.

Our software development services specialize in identifying opportunities for efficiencies and creating applications specific to your business needs. We can modify applications your business already uses, build your dream program from scratch, or keep your existing solution up and running. If you still aren’t sure which option is right for you, our software development team would love to schedule a free consultation and give you our professional opinion.

The Internet of (all) Things?

Back Up Your Data

IoT leaks top the list of cyber threats & why you should care

Technology is more accessible than ever and can control everything from your business transactions to the lighting in your home, but all of this interconnectivity comes with a risk.

Hackers are becoming bolder by the day, and they don’t discriminate who they are attacking based on the size, industry, or location. The only thing they care about is the Internet of Things (IoT)—a term that encompasses ALL devices and objects that are connected to the internet—and the plethora of digital intelligence it contains.

Protecting our clients from hackers is a top priority. In the past, we have blogged about the necessity of cybersecurity and some steps that can be taken to protect your business data, but today we’re breaking down the single largest threat to small- and medium-sized businesses.

CONNECTING…

We mentioned that the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the billions of devices worldwide that are connected to the internet, but let’s explore the scope of this definition and what an IoT leak could mean for a business.

There is no limit to what could be considered a part of the IoT because ANY object that can be connected to the internet is considered an IoT device.

Here are a few examples of commonly used personal IoT devices: GPS, pacemakers, web cameras, Amazon’s Echo, and home security systems.

With wireless networks and cheap processors readily available, the digital and physical worlds continue to mesh. The IoT is already huge, and getting bigger, but why should you care?

SHARING IS NOT ALWAYS CARING

An IoT leak could be disastrous for any business. No matter the type of breach, the financial costs are high and reputation impacts are long-lasting to any business.

Since these devices, especially in businesses, are interconnected and share data amongst themselves, access to one would mean easy access to any affiliated devices. Furthermore, once inside an IoT device, hackers can easily install malware and take control of the entire system.

The best way to stay ahead of these cyber threats is to be aware of how they can occur and take steps to protect your business. Don’t worry, we will walk you through both.

WORLDWIDE WEB OF HACKERS

The internet has provided us with live updates, real-time data collection, immediate international communication, instant access to a multitude of information, and hackers.

Many small- to medium-sized businesses have trouble seeing themselves as a target to these cyber criminals, thinking, what could they possibly want from me?—but that’s precisely what makes them easy targets.

While the Internet of Things was initially most appealing to business and manufacturing with its machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, nowadays, IoT devices are being used in almost every industry. However, these devices lack built-in security and can leave a digital backdoor open.

PASSWORD STRENGTH: ???

Hackers prey on IoT devices because they can locate them through automated programs and can usually gain access by using default admin credentials. To deter these types of cyber attacks, we recommend a few things.

  1. Change the password(s) on any new devices immediately after setup.
  2. Make sure all admin and user settings are updated and that no default credentials can be used.
  3. Finally, if you would like a second opinion on your cybersecurity, contact us to arrange a free consultation.

On Cloud 9.0

Cloud Technology

The ins, outs, and next big trends in cloud technology

Just 25 years ago, floppy disks were the standard for data storage and any self-respecting tech professional had tons of them in various colors. Now, it’s all about the cloud. We use it at home, we use it at work, and we use it on the go.

Cloud technology has streamlined businesses by providing access to new capabilities at the click of a mouse and increasing server efficiency, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Because amshot utilizes cloud technology all the time in our office and while executing services, we decided to take an in-depth look at all aspects of the cloud and where it’s heading.


“Nobody understands the cloud, it’s a mystery!” – Jason Segel


The idea of the cloud is abstract, to say the least. You can’t see it and you can’t touch it, but it somehow has seemingly endless amounts of storage and can be accessed anywhere.

Generally speaking, everyone knows it exists, but most have no idea what it is or what it does. So, let’s start with the basics.

1. How the cloud got its name:

Historically, when a diagram was drawn that included the internet, it was typically represented by a fluffy amorphous shape that closely resembled—you guessed it—a cloud.

2. The technical definition of cloud computing:

The virtualization and central management of data center resources as software-defined pools.

3. The most common uses of the cloud include but are not limited to:

  • Data storage and analysis
  • App/service creation
  • Website hosting
  • Media streaming
  • Software delivery

4. There are three main types of cloud services:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Basic cloud computing services. For a set fee, rent IT infrastructure (servers, storage, networks, etc.) from a provider on a pay-as-you-go basis.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): Geared toward software development. Provides on-demand access to the resources needed to quickly develop, test, launch, and maintain software without IT infrastructure to worry about.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Used to deliver/maintain software applications over the internet. Typically highly customizable apps, with some of the most notable examples being Google’s G Suite and Office 365.

5. There are three types of cloud deployment:

  • PUBLIC: Owned and operated by a third party. Account and services access is done via web browser (i.e. Google’s AppEngine, Windows Azure Services Platform)
  • PRIVATE: Owned by one business/organization. Third party providers can still be paid to host these private clouds, but all private clouds are on private networks.
  • HYBRID: Combination of a public and a private cloud that utilizes technology to share data and software applications between the two. Provides businesses with more flexibility.

On the Radar

The future of this technology is in multi-clouds (specifically, hybrid clouds). Innovation, efficiency, and flexibility are the driving factors behind the multi-cloud movement.

Multi-cloud computing is a cloud strategy consists of two or more cloud deployments that typically span multiple vendors. This type of cloud strategy can be made using all public clouds, all private clouds, or a hybrid.

The optimization of a multi-cloud environment requires strategy and coordination, but with the right team, can visibly affect business results.

Cloudy with a Chance of Hybrid Clouds

As mentioned above, hybrid clouds mesh public and private clouds, allowing data transfer between the two. This strategy is being adopted as a management strategy to enhance business innovation and to avoid putting all of the eggs into one cloud’s basket.

By utilizing a mix of several cloud deployments, companies have the ability to strategically implement specialized cloud technology for different internal departments based on their individual needs.

Another benefit to hybrid clouds is the ability to tap into additional resources when there is a spike in demand (i.e. Cyber Monday). This feature is known as “cloud bursting” and allows the system to run an application or resource within the private cloud and then burst into the public cloud as needed.

With so many uses and applications, it’s hard to believe that cloud technology can evolve any further—but we thought the same thing about telephones when the original iPhone was released.

If your company’s technology could use a facelift, or if you’re just getting started with the cloud and need some guidance, let’s talk tech to see how we can help your business transform results with technology.

Bytes Over Barrels: Cybersecurity in Oil and Gas

energy industry technology

Cybersecurity in the Oil & Gas Industry

With hackers becoming bolder and more destructive, many industries have taken steps to better secure their business information. However, the oil and gas industry remains arguably the most vulnerable to cyber attacks—or at least one of the most heavily targeted.

Granted, this industry has not experienced a crippling data breach yet, but that does not mean they are not at risk. As the industry becomes increasingly digital and interconnected, the need for strong cybersecurity also grows.

In this week’s blog, we’ll share our breakdown of cybersecurity in the oil and gas industry and why it’s crucial for businesses to be prepared.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

In the past, the remote operations and intricate data structures provided a natural defense against cyber attacks. When cyberterrorism was the ultimate goal, there was a general consensus that hackers weren’t targeting oil and gas data.

However, hackers are constantly evolving, and so are their strategies. Today, many hackers are profit-focused with strategies like disrupting operations, espionage, and stealing sensitive field data.

The oil and gas industry can be slow to adopt technological advancement. In fact, many companies are utilizing outdated software and systems leaving them vulnerable to attack— even though one of the unique aspects of the oil and gas industry is the potential magnitude of a data breach.

THE SCARIEST PART?

A study was conducted to evaluate how the industry is addressing security risks to operational technology and an average of 46% of cyber attacks went undetected.

Imagine a hacker was able to access operational technology for wells. With that data, an entire company could be shut down, and a breach of operational technology would have a ripple effect throughout the industry.

MISSION IMPENETRABLE

It’s no longer a question of if a data breach will occur in oil and gas, it’s simply a matter of when.

Significant technology developments have been made to increase efficiency in operations, data collection, and exploration. Now, these advancements provide companies with the time to focus on protecting their assets.

The interconnectedness of industry practices requires network security, data encryption, and vigilant monitoring. By establishing a data breach response plan and secure IT practices, the risk of cyber attacks is significantly reduced.

SECURE SUCCESS

Cybersecurity has been put on a backburner for the oil and gas industry, but it’s time to make it a priority—and amshot can help.

A comprehensive cybersecurity plan begins with assessing the risks and vulnerabilities of your company. Then, potential risks can be prioritized and crisis management plans created. While these initial steps allow you to prepare responses for a data breach, consulting with IT professionals is a necessity in this industry.

amshot has a specialized focus on managed IT services and custom software development for the oil and gas industry. Our extensive knowledge of this industry has led to the development of a unique and effective approach.

If your company does not utilize managed services, contact us and discover how our specialized approach to oil and gas cybersecurity can help you.

 

 

Breach Don’t Kill My Vibe

In our last blog, we mentioned how important encryption has become in protecting your company from hackers, but what happens when you suffer a data breach? More importantly, why should you take it seriously? As a full-service IT provider, amshot knows how serious data breaches are and how to protect your business from hackers, so we’ve put together a cheat sheet on data breaches and why they matter.

BREACHING THE SUBJECT

A data breach occurs when a third party exploits a company’s cybersecurity weaknesses to access to company information. Nowadays, even the smallest businesses work online to some extent, leaving them more susceptible to hackers seeking everything from employee information to financial records and intellectual property. Whether your company is completely digitized or only uses computers to log sales information, you are vulnerable to a data breach.

BIG IMPACTS

To some, the idea of a stranger accessing their business data is no big deal because they “don’t have anything THAT important online”—but data breaches of any kind can have a big impact. For example, data breaches typically affect the reputation of a company. Why? If you ordered something online your information was stolen in the process, you probably wouldn’t shop on that website anymore. A data breach can make any credible establishment seem unreliable and deter potential customers, even if the breach is contained.

However, a company’s reputation isn’t the only way data breaches can impact business. Customer information is just one example of data that can be accessed. Hackers look for any data that could be valuable to them, like financial information and intellectual property. With financial information, hackers can drain a bank account or crash a website. If intellectual property is stolen, a hacker would have access to ideas, proposals, designs, and reports that could set you back further than any other type of breach.

THE BEST DEFENSE

Every business is at risk for a data breach and the consequences can be severe, but amshot believes the best defense is a good offense. The first thing any business needs to do is assess their vulnerability. Certain industries are more susceptible than others—for example, healthcare is the most targeted industry—but establishing your company’s risk will determine how much time, effort, and money you should allocate to cybersecurity. From there, look at your business data and assess your need for external help. We all like to be hands-on in a crisis, but when it comes to IT and cybersecurity, sometimes it’s best to rely on professionals.

amshot provides managed IT services—including protection against data breaches—for businesses in a multitude of industries. If you think your company could benefit from beefing up your cybersecurity, reach out to consult@amshot.com to schedule your free consultation.

 

Encrypting is the Key to (Secure) Success

The threat of a digital security breach has never been more prevalent, and encryption is one of the best ways to defend your data from hackers. When it comes to protecting your growing business, having a secure network ensures the safety of servers and databases, but encryption protects the data within your network. Business data is shared across devices, web browsers, often the cloud, providing a multitude of opportunities for hackers. While data encryption is not an impenetrable defense (as demonstrated in The Imitation Game), it renders the data useless to any third party and has been widely successful in deterring hackers. Since the smallest vulnerability can lead to the compromisation of an entire network, having reliable IT and secure data management is crucial to a company’s success. Keep reading for a crash course on encryption and why it’s so important in this day and age.

CRYPTOGRAPHY TO ENCRYPTION

Data encryption has been a standard practice for hundreds of years, and prior to the digital era, was synonymous with cryptography. Cryptography (also referred to as cryptoanalysis) is the study of writing and solving codes. The earliest use of cryptography has been traced back to ancient Egypt and was a very popular method of military communication in WWII. Once computer technology became available, encryption developed its own definition within the field of cryptography as a practice that utilized computer-generated algorithms in the writing and solving of codes. Today, data encryption is one of the most effective tools against security breaches and can be applied to data, email, and even devices.

ENCRYPTION 101

The purpose of encrypting your data is to make information accessible to authorized users and useless to any unauthorized users. In the encryption process, computers and algorithms convert data into an unreadable code that can only be deciphered with the encryption key. An encryption key is crucial in this process as it translates the data from plain text to code and vice versa. Without the key, any data retrieved by hackers becomes obsolete. There are many types of encryption and various algorithms used, but the use of these practices will depend on the data being encoded. For example, encrypting a server would require a strong encryption and could maybe even several rounds of encryption. Deciphering that data would be a lengthy process to decipher, which is appropriate for information accessed infrequently. Understanding the basics of encryption will only help any consulting or training required to secure your company’s data.

WHY ENCRYPT?

The threat of a security breach has never been more imminent. Today, no one thinks twice about sharing information across devices, accounts, or browsers, but the increased connectivity also increases your data’s vulnerability. Not only does encrypting your data provide a significant deterrent to hackers, but it also protects the growth of your business. Whether the data are on devices, servers, emails, or the cloud, encryption is the best defense available.

Combating these potential hackers is a significant part of the Managed IT Services we provide to our clients. Ready to get your business on track? Send us an email at consult@amshot.com and let’s set up a free consultation.

The Supported Ascent: Cybersecurity and Data Management For The Growing Business

A small business seeking growth has a lot to consider. Obtaining and managing data now can affect decades of market presence, and swift management can mean meeting goals in months instead of years, but as with any organism, a business is at its most vulnerable when it is in its earliest stages. Security breaches are only becoming more common, and it is easy for a single software vulnerability or user error to compromise entire systems. That’s why reliable IT support, secure data management, and strong IT training for staff are essentials for directing growth and protecting company data regardless of company size or structure.  

 

The Techno-Interpreter 

What are your hardware and software needs? What software packages work best for your budget and goals? What specially designed applications could increase productivity and enrich user experiences? How do you gather and apply user and market data to direct company growth? Where are your vulnerabilities within your desktop ecosystem and IoT (Internet of Things) devices? How do you ensure that essential company data isn’t lost? These can be daunting questions that are relatively simple ones to experienced IT personnel, and lead us into our next point: 

 

Knowing Yourself Through Client Data 

This one is no secret: In many ways, applying gathered consumer data is the only real way to keep your feet planted in a chaotic, competitive environment. But what information matters? How do you gather only the important pieces in a sea of endless data? Specialized software allows you to identify trends, demographics, and observable curves in the market and apply them to your goals. Predictive analysis is an art that, when finely honed, can make an estimated guess into a confident statement that ensures success.  

 

A Watchful Eye 

Software vulnerabilities are always a concern, but user error is almost a certainty at one point or another. While you may trust your employees, nobody is exempt from making mistakes 100% of the time. Because everything is connected, one click on a phishing e-mail or the use of a less-than-savory external application can compromise your entire infrastructure. That’s where attentive administration and software procurement is key. Augment this with IT training for staff and you significantly lower your risk of technological catastrophe.   

 

Back It Up 

So let’s say the worst case scenario happens and your data is lost. This can happen either by cyber attacks or physical destruction of on-site storage systems by something such as natural disaster. This is where data backup services such as Datto save the day. Keeping your data in the cloud allows it to flow efficiently and securely throughout your company. 

Succinctly, the companies of tomorrow are being built today, and without harnessing new standards and technologies they will likely be overshadowed by their peers who have, and also are at increasing risk of digital breaches from outdated hardware, software, and practices. At amshot, we work with businesses who are ready to grow – that means providing technology training, developing software and applications, managing IT services, and more. Questions, concerns, or big dreams for your company’s data? Schedule a free consultation by emailing consult@amshot.com or calling us at (405) 418-6282.