Tag Archive for: Tech News

The Empirical Elegance of Data

Our modern lives have been built on the back of unwavering certainty. Steam engines allowed us to spread out, trade, and communicate across vast distances. Modern medicine is built on guaranteed biological reactions within us. That’s the kind of definitive cause and effect we’re finding in big data and data analysis. Couple that with the computational prowess of machine learning, capable of sifting through billions of business variables in seconds, and suddenly you have a resource that is not simply additive, but multiplicative, and free to shift and scale according to any demand.

Business Driven Data/Data Driven Business

A company is comprised of every decision made at every level by management and staff. We can only make decisions based on the information we digest, and in the past the direction of a business was driven by obvious bits of information that most people could interpret. 10,000 products sold is an effective indicator that there’s a market for that product, but what about the unseen, mercurial undercurrents that drive a consumer economy? That’s what a data driven business model employs to insure success and profit. With data, you don’t have to take a single step without knowing the ground on which it will land.

The Internet of Things and Data For Customers

Computers are a part of everything now, and everything is communicating. We’re able to draw statistics about how products are being used by utilizing consumer input. The context of this usage can be extracted to form a perfect picture of a consumer’s relationship with a product. It’s not just for the business, either, because making select information available to your consumer enriches their experience with a product or service. Examples of this include exercise watches that track your progress and shows how you compare to other users, and a streaming service that makes suggestions based on what others with similar viewing histories also watched.

Information, Learn Thyself

The most world-changing aspect of data is its ability to build on itself by way of machine learning and automation. With little input from the user, systems can gather, sort, and interpret data at speeds and in ways that a human could never fathom. With the inclusion of products capable of obtaining data by themselves, what we find is that a well-nurtured, but more hands-off approach to data is becoming increasingly prevalent. To put it simply, it’s the difference between picking fruit and planting a seed.

One Size Fits All

Data is flexible, too. Data analysis can be a panorama or a microscope, depending on business needs. A small company cannot afford to miss any scrap of usable information, like recurring complaints, common user issues, or simply what color of product consumers in a particular region are more likely to take home with them. Likewise, a large company receives such an incredible amount of information that interpreting patterns and trends from this chaos is the only way this company can stay mobile and ensure growth.

The beauty of data is not from form, but function. The form that data takes is increasingly massive heaps, growing into mountains, of information that make increasingly less sense to decision makers concerned with the broad, immediate path. The function, however, is an assured honesty, an empirical statement that can be the answer to any question a business may have. That’s what makes data beautiful.

There’s so many sides of data, so many angles from which to extract, and this only grows with our ability to collect it. Every day at amshot we are devising new ways to make this process seamless for the end user, be it business or consumer. Get in touch with us and start your way down the certain path that data can lay before you. Give us a call at (405) 418-6282 or send an email to consult@amshot.com for a free consultation.

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Big Data and Predictive Analytics: The Competitive Edge

How does using data/business intelligence give businesses an edge over those who don’t utilize customer or company data?

Data is the most valuable commodity for any modern business. Small bits of information — such as customer age, consumer habits, and location — all add up to a bigger picture. Minute, seemingly disposable data accumulates to form what we call “big data”, an ocean of information gathered by a company’s day-to-day interactions with a consumer. Business intelligence is the practice of forming this bigger picture, making vast quantities of information easily digestible and actionable. Here are a few questions that data analysis can answer for you and your company.

Who is our customer?

Millions of people are regularly engaging with millions of products and services. Each and every day, a single consumer interacts with dozens if not hundreds of businesses by way of advertisement, digital applications, brick and mortar establishments, and subscription-based services. Add in what they’re not partaking in and you’ve got a much more vivid picture of who your customer is. By knowing the habits of your consumer, and by way of predictive analysis, a business can know how the market will respond to an idea before it’s even rolled out.

How are customers interacting with our product or service?

People’s personal relationship with and perception of your brand can make or break your business. Do you find that more of your sales come from older people or younger? Do they sell especially well at a certain time of day or time of the year? Do customers frequently pair another product or service with yours? These details can seem like minutiae, but they form the trends that will completely determine your success.

What is our public image and what do consumers expect from us?

Data analytics aren’t just important for the direct interaction consumers have with your brand. They also help summarize how those customers are responding after those interactions take place. Posts and digital reviews — across social media platforms and Google listings — give you the most honest, unfiltered representation of how your brand is perceived. Be it positive or negative, this data allows a company to self-reflect and apply tweaks to their image that will foster a positive relationship with consumers.

Who are our competitors?

Mistakes are the growing pains of any business, but data analysis of the mistakes of others is a much more painless experience. In today’s world everything is shared, and deep in the data trail are the reasons why others have failed or succeeded. For example, if a similar company’s product failed, look and see if the mistake wasn’t in targeting the wrong demographics, or casting too broad a net when choosing an audience to advertise to. These are the foundation of what is called competitive intelligence, and it is a vital practice. If you aren’t learning from others’ mistakes, they are most certainly learning from yours.

Knowing your customer, how they perceive and interact with your brand, and how you compare to your competitors are some of the answers that can steady a business during turbulent times or take profits to the next level for even the most successful business. Information is the single most important asset, and it’s just waiting to be taken.

That’s what we at amshot aim to do for your company. We know where to look, and our expertise is in creating custom programs and applications that make it possible for this data to be gathered, deciphered, and interpreted for easy understanding by decision makers within a business. If this sounds like something your company needs, email consult@amshot.com or give us a call at (405) 418-6282 to set up a free consultation.

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Beyond the Five Percent Rule: When Outsourcing IT is the Best Option for Businesses

In our previous blog, we discussed the need for businesses and organizations to devote at least five percent of their overall personnel budget to information technology. However, reaching that five percent threshold can be difficult for some startups, sole practices, specialized small businesses and even larger organizations. So what’s a business to do? As with any major decision, businesses should consider current and future security and support needs as well as the potential cost for in-house IT versus partnering with a consulting company.

Here are five things to consider when weighing options for your information technology:

1. Cost – Let’s be honest, in-house IT can be expensive. Some start-up costs for a new department can include infrastructure, software, planning, and updates, not to mention training and competitive salaries for dedicated personnel. In fact, cost is often cited as one of the primary reasons businesses make the switch to an external consulting company.

2. Risk reduction – Another major benefit of outsourcing your IT over building an in-house department is that companies which specialize in information technology have a greater grasp on best operational practices and new trends as well as current threats and how to overcome them.

3. Additional resources to focus on growing your business – Most organizations have limited resources, whether it’s time, materials, or even human capital. As a result, there are limits to what an internal IT department can accomplish on its own, making problem solving a more lengthy process. By outsourcing IT support, you can spend less time troubleshooting computer glitches and more time concentrating on what your business does best.

4. Access to a wider variety of IT knowledge – For many small organizations, an internal IT department may only consist of a single person, who (no matter how experienced) is not a replacement to a panel of specialists who are proficient in IT solutions for a variety of industries. In addition, by outsourcing IT, your company can gain access to higher levels of technology and resources that can give you an edge against other small businesses.

5. Improvement to company focus – An ongoing IT problem can impact your whole business if not handled quickly and thoroughly. Unfortunately, when you’re handling all of your IT support internally, your focus is split amongst the different technical priorities needed to keep your site, products, and applications up and running. An outsourced IT partner, on the other hand, can address those worries and often solve problems more quickly, allowing you and your employees to focus more fully on achieving your company’s goals.

In today’s technology-driven world, IT infrastructure and support are essential to any successful enterprise, regardless of size. And while no company wants to be the patient zero in a data breach, the fact is that launching and maintaining an in-house IT department can be costly and not always the best choice for every organization.

If it’s starting to seem clear that outsourcing IT is the best option for your company, or if you have questions about what a partnership with Amshot would look like, email consult@amshot.com to set up a free consultation or give us a call at (405) 418-6282.

The Five Percent Rule: Creating the Perfect Staff Equilibrium

In chemistry, equilibrium is created in acid-base combinations by using the five percent rule. Achieving chemical equilibrium in the products and reactants is akin to reaching an important state of balance. Though most businesses are far removed from the world of chemistry, five percent is still a useful measure to remember when balancing your IT requirements with staffing needs for other departments.

Although the number can fluctuate depending on your company’s focus and unique technology needs, five percent is often an excellent place to start when considering how to allocate personnel to the IT department. To put it in simpler terms, if you have 100 employees, at least five of them should be responsible for the IT needs of your business.

So, where exactly do you start? The first part of building an IT department of any size is to create a plan that accounts for both current needs and future growth. This can usually be done with the help of an IT consulting company or an in-house Chief Technology Officer.

Duties of Information Technology staff encompass a wide range of areas, all of which enable a company to store, receive, and send information. In some companies, the department’s role can include network management, software development, and database administration in addition to overseeing electronic communication tools, such as telephones, internal and external websites, and even email.

IT specialists may also provide technical support to a business or an organization’s employees and train non-technical workers on the business’s information systems. Advanced specialists may design systems and assess the effectiveness of technology resources already in use or new systems that are being implemented.

Additionally, a company’s IT specialists often work with external partners, including consultants, agencies, and vendors to develop the best systems for your business. They must always keep abreast of emerging technologies and how these advancements could be integrated into a business’s current systems.

Staffing for any role can require balancing current requirements with future needs. By incorporating the five percent rule into your staffing strategy, you can keep your company’s technology running smoothly.

What do you do if you only have 10 employees? It’s hard to hire half a person. That’s where outsourcing comes in. Working with an external IT company means that you’ll have a team of people monitoring your account, handling the day-to-day, and helping you achieve your technology goals. In fact, that’s exactly where Amshot comes in – we specialize in working with companies to transform and optimize their IT through Managed Services, Software Consulting, and Web Development. Are you ready to take technology off your plate so you can focus on running the rest of your business? Shoot us an email to set up a consultation and get on track to implementing a technology plan that meets your needs and helps your company – and vision – grow.

Avoiding the Perils of a Bad Backup Plan

One of the world’s largest source-code hubs, GitLab, has spent years building a business that not only caters to small and medium-sized businesses, but also marquee clients including IBM, NASA and Macy’s. In February, however, this powerhouse company almost lost its long list of clients due to a temporary, accidental data loss and a backup failure that took their services offline for several hours.

Fortunately, GitLab was able to correct the problem in a few hours, and in doing so, save many of its customer accounts. This incident could have been avoided with a robust disaster plan and a system that embraces Intelligent Business Continuity (IBC). The IBC standard – along with minimal downtime, cloud protection, redundancy for image-based backups, and minimal risk of corrupted backups or data loss  – is one of the main reasons we choose to partner with Datto when building solutions and data backup plans for our clients.

As GitLab’s experience shows, traditional backup methods, such as tape, disk or online only, are no longer sufficient for most business owners. These methods are unable to recover data quickly, have slower backup speeds, and often store files in only one location, raising the risk for potential theft as well as the consequences of losing data if those files become corrupted. An IBC solution, on the other hand, is a higher standard that ensures data protection, continuity, data security, and instant recovery, all of which help to mitigate downtime.

Here are some good questions to ask when selecting a backup solution for your data.

What risks do traditional methods present? Traditional backup systems carry a high risk of failure due to manual administration. In fact, 58% of downtime is a result of human error.

What common issues does a business face with data backup? Some of the usual backup concerns include accuracy, backup and retrieval times, encryption capability and data security.

What are the advantages of using an IBC data backup solution over traditional methods? There are many advantages to adopting a system with IBC, including a higher level of encryption and data redundancy in several locations and a fully automated backup process, meaning that very little manual management is required. This method also helps businesses avoid risk of downtime from local disasters, as backups are stored in multiple locations on both the local device and the secure cloud.

Why is it important for business owners to find the best backup system? Customer data has become one of the most important assets a business can have, regardless of size. Whether it’s customer names and addresses or confidential files, it is essential that electronic information is stored securely and backed up often.

At Amshot, we realize how vital data is to our clients’ daily operations, which is why we only select the best solutions. If you would like to learn more about our partnership with Datto or are interested in discussing the best solutions for your company’s data backup systems and disaster planning, contact us at 405-418-6282 or consult@amshot.com.

IT Security

The Verdict: Law Firms Should Invest in a Comprehensive IT Plan

Popular culture loves to highlight the hard work that goes into creating a good legal strategy. From “Law and Order”, “Boston Legal”, and more recently “Suits”, viewers get a sneak peek into the client meetings, research and even courtroom performance of law firms. What is not often shown is the work that goes on behind the scenes, especially when it comes to creating a comprehensive information technology plan and securing client data.

Certainly, a well-researched, secure information technology strategy is a necessity for any business. Law firms, however, face a higher bar for security due to the elevated ethical requirement for client confidentiality. While some law firms can support an in-house IT department, many small firms don’t have the resources for this. Fortunately, there are many benefits for outsourcing IT service to an outside vendor, such as a more sophisticated level of security, data storage at multiple sites and greater workplace efficiency.

According to the American Bar Association, there are a few things legal firms should do before designing an IT strategy, including:

Creating high-level policies regarding the privacy and security of firm data. Policies should address the use of encryption, remote access, mobile devices, thumb drives, laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, cloud storage, Web email accounts and social networking sites.

Identifying points of contact with law enforcement, Internet service providers, the communications companies that service the firm and cyber forensic experts.

Working with your IT staff or vendor, conducting third-party vulnerability scans, penetration tests and malware scans. Antivirus software is essential, but it detects only a small percentage of new malware. Specialized services that detect sophisticated attacks may be required.

Performing software code reviews on Web applications and custom code to detect vulnerabilities.

Developing contractual security requirements for outsourcing vendors, cloud providers or other entities that connect to the firm’s network, including notification in the event of a breach.

These are things that we can help you with as we work with you to establish your IT strategy. Further, your IT solutions and software should be tailored to your unique needs – not just your needs as a legal firm, but strategies that further your individual tech goals. At Amshot, we offer a wide range of products and services to help law firms of every size create a robust, customized IT plan to fit their individual needs. A few of the legal sector-specific services we provide are:

  • Capturing of Billables
  • Case Management Software
  • Data Backup
  • Minimize Downtime
  • Mobility
  • Process Efficiencies
  • Stability

To learn more about how we can help your law firm create a strong, consistent IT strategy, contact us here or give us a call at 405-418-6282.

Sam Washburn art

Selecting Cloud Software

“The Cloud.” It isn’t always the easiest concept for people to understand. Where is it? What is it? Is it safe?

Even the most seasoned businessperson may be flummoxed by just how data can be secure when it’s just out there, somewhere. But they shouldn’t be. Business leaders need to be armed with questions when working with an IT consultant and walk away with the facts they need to make an informed decision about cloud software.

Great cloud software can allow a business to be more secure, efficient and effective. When weighing the decision of how to use it, business leaders can drop these questions on vendors to gain more information.

  1. How will you secure our data? Just as the security of your physical location is important, your data storage should be protected vigilantly. Be sure to ask any potential cloud storage vendors what measures they have in place to secure your information. Essential security measures include: Anti-virus detection, data encryption, firewalls, multistep user verification and regular security audits.
  1. Are your data centers protected from theft and natural disasters? Let’s face it, unplanned calamities can happen at anywhere and at any time. A quality cloud storage vendor should not only be prepared to withstand unforeseen events, but also meet industry standards, such as the Statement Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 (SSAE16). To earn SSAE16 approval, a cloud company’s system and data must meet a higher criteria of customer privacy, data center physical security and data redundancy (i.e. data that is stored in several areas).
  1. How easy is the cloud software to use? For smaller businesses without IT staff, it’s important to remember that your chosen cloud system will be installed and used by people at all levels – from novice to professional. If the program is difficult to access or it takes too many steps to store and retrieve information, there can be a negative impact on your staff’s willingness to adopt the new system and overall organizational productivity.
  1. What customer services are offered? Technical problems can arise at any time, even when using the best cloud systems. For this reason, your vendor should have assistance available online or by phone 24 hours a day, every day. The level of assistance is also important, as there are times you may need to interact with a knowledgeable engineer, not a customer service representative following a script.
  1. Are there frequent downtimes in the cloud system? One of the most important benefits to cloud storage is that it enables you and your employees access to needed files from any internet connected device. If your chosen vendor experiences frequent downtimes, it can make it difficult for you to access information when you need it most. Some cloud storage providers will post their downtime history online. However, if yours does not, be sure to ask.

For businesses that need to do more with less, the cloud is a game changer. Understanding the cloud on a basic level allows leaders to make informed decisions about the role it can play in their business. If you’re looking for better insight, more engaged clients, faster innovation, consider exploring cloud solutions to move ahead of your competition.

These are just some highlights on what the cloud offers. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate it alone – at Amshot, we help our clients vet software providers to make sure they’re choosing the right option for their business. We also support software and train users. We look forward to discussing the specific areas where technology will add value to your business. Contact us here to start the conversation.Selecting Cloud Software

Business Leaders’ Guide to Avoiding Hacks

It seems these days that hacker is a job title with a bright future. Take a few extra clicks through the web and you’re bound to read either a story about hacking or the actual information that has been hacked – emails, business financials, personal info, or even your grandma’s secret fruitcake recipe.

In 2017, businesses must go on the defensive to protect their intellectual property, customer data and revenue in an online world which has more and more troublemakers squeezing through the cracks.

And let’s be clear it’s not just governments and corporate giants which are the targets. Businesses on Main Street are too. Small and medium sized businesses, often with not a lot of IT or security resources are becoming juicy targets for the hacking bad guys. According to new data from Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report: “Last year, phishing campaigns targeted small businesses (PDF) 43 percent of the time. That’s up 9 percent over 2014 and a stark contrast to the mere 18 percent of attacks that focused on small businesses in 2011 … Symantec’s report reveals a 55 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in the amount of spear-phishing campaigns that target employees of a business of any size.” (Source) In 2014, Russian hackers (those guys are popular) grabbed customer information from more than 400,000 business websites, getting away with more than 2 billion passwords. And they haven’t slowed down. (Source)

Here are some steps that any business can take in order to make themselves a little less vulnerable against anyone prowling around the web. Remember, the best offense is a good defense.

  1. Define the boundaries for your employees: A few bad clicks on phishing emails or strange web downloads are dangerous moves which could turn your company’s online security into swiss cheese. Educating your employees and creating acceptable use policies for what they should and shouldn’t do on the internet can make a big difference in whether a company network becomes a secret home to malware. Keeping them up with the latest threats will raise everyone’s radar.
  2.  Control the admin keys: Even a small organization can create a hierarchy for who has administrative access to the company’s server, email dashboard and enterprise software. Allowing all employees admin access can create a stew of changes, which can often be traced back to employee making something work for them on their device. “Security policies and mechanisms must be put in place for company data access from personal devices,” said P.J. Gupta, a mobile security expert and the founder and CEO of iPlum to BusinessNewsDaily.com. “Tight control on who has the privileges to run which enterprise apps from which devices helps minimize the risk of data loss or corruption.” (source)
  3.  Treat email differently: Many of the most notorious hacks of the past few years came from people sharing a lot of information in the body of unsecured and non-encrypted emails. If a business is worried about what is being sent over the email transom internally, then training can come first, but an encrypted email service might be next. Services are available which will warn an employee if they are sharing sensitive information like a credit card number or an attachment of client contact information.
  4. Double-check Who’s Logging In: If you are worried someone is going to break down your door, sometimes the best solution is to just have two locks instead of one. Adding an extra step can frustrate and dissuade a bad guy just enough to make them give up and find an easier victim. On the digital side of a business, that more and more often means the addition of Two Factor Authentication. You are seeing this on everything from your bank to your favorite social media platform. Two Factor Authentication means that a password isn’t enough to get you to your data. These extra steps can include a secret piece of knowledge – i.e., “Mother’s maiden name” – or a fingerprint, voice password or PIN.
  5. Verify unusual requests with a real person: Bad guys have begun impersonating employees e-mail addresses to request that co-workers transfer funds to external accounts. This can result in losses of tens of thousands of dollars. If a request for external payment seems unusual, verify with your co-worker via phone or face-to-face.

Those are just a few simple steps a business can take to keep their cybersecurity guard up going into 2017. For more information or assistance contact Amshot at 405-896-8152 or consult@amshot.com.

Amshot Protecting Against Hackes