Don’t be Collateral Damage

The last few months have seen some real interesting news in the area of computer security. First there was the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Then there was the announcement of the Flame virus that not only could affect software, but could turn a computer into a fancy eavesdropping device And just this week, Tech reported a cyber-security think tank has published a manual studying how international law applies to conflicts in cyberspace, where the laws of conventional warfare are more difficult to apply. The manual comes from experts working with the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), an institute based in Tallinn, Estonia, founded in 2008 that assists NATO with technical and legal issues associated with cyber warfare related issues.

As the political party conventions have ended here in the US, both parties are talking about Cyber Security as a national threat. The White House is circulating a draft of an executive order aimed at protecting the country from cyber-attacks according to The Hill’s Technical Blog. The Republican Party has responded with a plank in their platform calling for voluntary cooperation between companies rather than another governmental organization.

It’s not just on a national policy level that major security issues. Google has admitted that its online mapping service cars snatched data from private wireless hotspots. Considering that a recent study done by the University of Illinois found that only half of all users change any defaults at all on the most popular brand of wireless router, can the company that has an informal motto of “Don’t be Evil” be really trusted with what they have found?

I haven’t even touched upon the criminal or simply vandalistic element that we have all seen over the last few years.

We have all heard about collateral damage in war zones. I would contend that if you are on the Internet, you are in a war zone. Are you already or are you going to be “collateral damage”? Have you reviewed your defenses for this new age? What could you afford to lose if you are hit, even if you weren’t the target? Contact your IT Professional and have them check your environment. And when the cost estimates arrive, balance not just the cost dollars, but also the potential dollars that could be lost if you become collateral damage.

Those that work in the Shadows

Now that the Olympic Games are over, I think congratulations should go out to all the five hundred and some odd US athletes that competed in the games. Having relatives that could have gone to that level in their prime, but choose to study more than train, I have an idea of the sacrifices those that qualified to compete in the games have made.

And also congratulations to the City of London for pulling off a spectacle and event of that level without any of the major problems that were predicted by the nay-Sayers before the games started.

As we in our daily lives discover, those that look the best have done the most work in the shadows, the background, out of sight. That’s why a lot of times your IT consultant will recommend something you have never heard of to resolve a concern. Many times the names you have heard in the IT world are focused on things you, as a small business, are not concerned with. They may have a product, for example in anti-malware, that you have heard of for years, but their focus is on the enterprise market and not the small business.

What are the ramifications of the difference in focus? Typically it is the resources that are required to run the given application or service. Although this is changing as businesses grow and technology gets less expensive, multiple single application servers are not the norm in the small business environment. So, even in a world of virtualization, single servers for a given application may be out of reach.

That is why an IT consultant that specializes in small business is the best choice for a small business. They spend the time with the unknown vendors to find the right application for their clients. These applications may not work in the enterprise world, but are a best fit for the small business world. In many cases, these consultants will go out of their way to find a solution that may not pay them as much, but is the right solution for the client.

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform.”

–Susan B. Anthony,
American activist


Death of an era for Small Business IT

On the 5th of July, a day usually used by politicians to hide bad news, Microsoft announced the end of the Small Business Server (SBS).   In its place, Microsoft presented a “lite” version of their Windows Server product that included the very popular Remote Web Access feature.  But there would no longer be a bundled package including Exchange and Sharepoint.

Over the last month, many things have been said and written about the Microsoft decision.  Complaints have been made that Microsoft has turned their back on many of the larger businesses that were using SBS.  But the truth of the matter is that SBS is a complex environment and always has.  I would suspect that the support costs of the product were much higher than most of Microsoft’s product line.  After all, to be a true expert in SBS, you had to be an expert in the server operating system, active directory, Exchange and Sharepoint.  Most IT professionals working in larger businesses would specialize in one of those products, but not all of them.  I remember being approached by a senior level support person from a national IT firm and being told “We install and support SBS.  But we don’t install the Exchange or Sharepoint components because they are too complex for small business.”

Microsoft has cited the movement of email and file support to the cloud as one of the main reasons for the change.  I suspect that is true for a lot of reasons.  One that I have not seen mentioned is the change in perspective of the newer generations starting their own or taking over businesses.  These generations have been the leaders in the move to smart phones, tablets, and always being connected.  They don’t remember dial-up and a complete lack of inter-network capability.

This blog sounds like the regret at the end of an era.  But it is not.  It is an honest view of the facts and the understanding that an era has changed.

I’m not sure what the new era is going to be like, but it will be different.  What I will point out is how the new era is based on what was done in the old era and what lessons were learned then.    From my perspective of computing, what is new was old.  It is just polished to look more shiny.