Spinning internet security with the Rotary Club.

Today, I had the honor of being a guest speaker at our local Rotary Club.  The topic at hand… Internet Security, as it pertains to consumers/individuals.

My audience was a diverse crowd of business owners and executives, both young and seasoned.  While the scope of my topic did not delve into corporate or enterprise-class practices, the questions that I received at the end, proved that my message carried weight and that my audience was indeed interested in what I had to say.

During my 30 minutes, I touched on what I considered to be important aspects of safely traversing the internet.  What I strove  to drive home, was that common sense and familiarity with the technology play a big role in security.  Points such as http vs. https as well as unique and complex passwords seemed to yield a great deal of nods, proving that I was connecting with them.

It was not until I began speaking about my experience in Law Enforcement, as it pertained to cyber crimes and exploitation of children cases and how unsecured wireless networks can be a contributing factor, that I began to see genuine expressions of fear and concern upon their faces.  I had apparently, at this juncture, revealed a large amount of individuals who have open, unsecured wireless networks at their homes.  The thought of an offender, sitting outside of their home, connecting to their WiFi and conducting transactions with stolen credit cards or worse, uploading child pornography, had them wanting to go home that second and secure their wireless; some even expressed intentions to turn off their wireless completely.

Even though my intention was not to employ a scare tactic, I believe my point was well received.  I can imagine that the War Drivers and WiFi Piggy-Backers will find the airwaves a tad more secure in our town tonight.

A huge thanks to the Quitman/Brooks County Rotary Club for having me today.  The food was delicious and the members were very welcoming.  I would be honored to visit again, as a speaker or a guest.

Walking the tightrope of Managed Services

I was first introduced to Managed Services in 2010 when I went to work for a local MSP.  Two of the employees were (and still are) very close friends of mine.  One, of which I regard as the main contributor to my technical knowledge.

At that time, I was used to break-fix repair, waiting for customers to call me when something broke.  This type of service can be sporadic and can leave you with no revenue for days or even weeks.  The problem with break-fix repair is that sometimes the end user is not really aware that there is an issue.  Other times, they are reluctant to call for a small problem since they will receive a bill for your services.  Who wants to pay a $60.00 service charge for resetting their browser settings or updating Java?  Instead, customers will allow these minor problem to pile up and manifest into a big problem.  At this point, they are left with an unusable machine and have to stop work and wait, until you have the time to remote in or make an on-site call.

Being introduced to Managed IT Services changed my perspective in regard to IT support.  With the invent of the MSP (Managed Services Provider) platforms and RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) tools, it made it possible to monitor every aspect of a PC, Workstation, Server, Laptop and eventually mobile devices, including smartphones.  No longer would I be in the dark.  I could now set thresholds for numbers such as (just to name a few):

  • % Memory in use
  • % Hard drive free
  • % CPU resources free
  • CPU Temperature

What’s more, I could also script certain tasks that would otherwise call for me to perform manually.  Before long, it became apparent that many of the preventive maintenance tasks that I used, could be automated AND I could perform tasks on many machines at once, allowing me to multi-task and clear multiple tickets at once.  By doing this, the number of calls or tickets that we dealt with were mainly requests for certain tasks or changes.  Very rarely would we need to repair something that was a result of system resources going unchecked.

Having gained this new-found knowledge, I wanted to be in control of my own MSP.  This came to be, after an unfortunate clash with one of the above-mentioned friends, caused me to lose that job.

I quickly went in search of my MSP platform of choice.  I was, of course already familiar with the one that we used in my previous job. However, I wanted to be different.  I didn’t want to ride on the coattails of my previous experience any more than I needed.

After lots of searching and lots of trials, I finally settled on a brand/product.  I was now ready to take on customers.

I quickly found out a couple of things:  I am not a salesman and businesses can rarely afford the support that they need.

Each and every business that I encountered had ZERO preventive maintenance and needed these services in a bad way.  However, overcoming the hurdle of convincing them that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure was difficult.  Also, I found that the smaller businesses were easier to land as clients than the bigger ones.  The cost per device quickly added up and prospective clients were quoted with monthly bills that would be hundreds of dollars; an expense that was simply not budgeted for.

I was quickly faced with the dilemma of knowing what the customers needed and not being able to provide it to them due to cost.  As a result, here I sat, paying for licenses to software that was not being used and having at my fingertips, the ability to form a powerful, well-respected IT firm, yet still grasping at straws as far as building a customer base.

In the IT world, we techies are always in search of the best, fastest and newest technology.  We generally have a better understanding of what users need than they ever will.  However, lack of knowledge, care and/or funds on the user’s part, sometimes forces us to revert to older, less efficient ways of delivering our service.

I would love to be able to end this post with an epiphany or some type of solution I found to overcome this, however, I am frustrated to say that I have yet to find such.