IT ROI

Several components are vital to a business’s day-to-day operations. But, in
today’s highly technological world, Information Technology (IT) is one of the
most important aspects of any business. And
any time you talk about IT, you talk about
ROI (return on investment).

Staying on top of ever-changing technologies is imperative to a business’s success,
because if technology is passing you by, then
it’s likely your competitors are, as well.
Owners who overlook IT or treat it as just
another line item are doing themselves and
their companies a great disservice, says Rory
Sanchez, president and CEO of SLPowers.

“Many say that IT is a necessary evil and
simply belongs in the expense category, but,
like anything else, it needs to align with your
business goals and provide a return by way of
efficiencies and productivity,” Sanchez says.

Smart Business spoke with Sanchez about
IT services and how to know that you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

How can you measure returns on your IT
investment?

The process starts by understanding the
total cost of ownership of IT. Far too often,
companies look at the price of the hardware
or the initial installation and make their decisions based on lowering that cost. The reality
is that the price you pay to purchase and
install hardware and software is just a fraction of the total cost of ownership. A much
larger portion will go toward training, maintenance and support over the life of the technology. Thus, companies need to set their
sights on the big picture, optimize the way
they handle these variables, and turn IT into
a productivity tool that aligns with their business practices and goals. Also, using tried
and true software in proven platforms will go
a long way in enhancing your IT ROI.

What are the key components to a good
IT/network set-up?

Building a solid IT infrastructure is just like
building a solid home; it starts at the foundation. First is the physical layer, which
includes the cabling infrastructure, wireless
access points, the routers, switches and
other connectivity points. If you’re going with
a Microsoft-Windows-based network, you
can argue that the operating system is the
most important issue and that all hardware is
created equal, but this couldn’t be further
from the truth. Servers from Hewlett
Packard and IBM are designed from the
ground up to be servers and each and every
component is designed for proper cooling
and continuous operations. Not all servers
are built alike and not all servers are tested to
the same degree when it comes to compatibility with Microsoft software.

If your IT and network aren’t up to snuff, how
will business be affected?

The business world is constantly changing
and evolving, and you always want to stay
ahead of your competition. IT is like a car; a
newer car will run better and get you where
you need to go better than an older car. But,
that doesn’t mean everything is built the
same. All IT is generic to a certain degree, but
running on the latest platforms and keeping
systems updated is essential. Another thing
to consider is security. All businesses use the
Internet in some way, shape or form, and
there are all kinds of dangers online these
days. Keeping systems up to date will help
keep your business secure.

What are the biggest mistakes companies
make when selecting IT services?

The first, and probably biggest, mistake
companies make is shopping on price
instead of value, and not properly planning
their network infrastructures. It’s always
worth the money to figure out exactly what
IT your business needs and what you want to
accomplish with it. Many companies complain that they spend thousands of dollars on
IT, and the technology doesn’t work for them.
Usually, it’s because they didn’t spend the
time and money upfront to make the right IT
decisions.

Another mistake is when growing companies start off with small systems and continue to add pieces over the years as business
grows. Whether you like it or not, at some
point, you’re going to have to do a complete
overhaul. Take a step back, re-evaluate your
situation and rethink new structures that will
enhance and grow your business.

A third mistake is relying on an internal IT
department because you think it costs less.
Sure, a salaried IT person will always be on-site for you, but you could get the same level
of service — at a fraction of the cost — by
outsourcing. Then, you are getting all the
resources of the outsourcing company,
rather than the resources of just one individual. Plus, the outsourcing company doesn’t
take sick or vacation days, and you don’t
have to pay to keep it trained and up to date
on new technologies.

How can good IT lead to better business?

No matter how you use the Internet or
other technologies, good IT will lead to
increased customer confidence, efficiency
and productivity. Good IT will permeate
throughout the entire organization, and your
clients will see it. Having IT that stores customers’ data is great. When they call, you’ll be
able to pull up their past orders and purchase
agreements and even know their family
members’ names and birth dates. This sort of
personal touch is what customers are craving
in today’s market. And, IT facilitates good
customer service.

RORY SANCHEZ is the president and CEO of SLPowers. Reach him at (561) 835-8351 or [email protected].

Are you secure?

The realm of Internet security is ever-changing and often confusing, even to
the savviest IT professional. Hackers are creating new malware, spyware and
viruses practically by the minute, and if
you’re not protected, your company is in
danger of losing customer trust, putting
yourself at a competitive disadvantage or
even opening yourself up to legal troubles.

Simple virus detection isn’t enough anymore, according to Craig Davis, executive
vice president of SLPowers. With so many
servers and computers online these days,
viruses propagate so quickly that millions
of computers can be infected before anti-virus software even knows that virus
exists.

“Your network firewall may not be doing
all that it should be doing,” Davis says.
“Companies today need a firewall that
offers multiple levels of protection, including junk e-mail filtering, anti-virus capability,
an intrusion detection or prevention system,
and World Wide Web content filtering, on
top of traditional firewall features. These
application-layer firewalls use proxies to
process and forward all incoming traffic,
though they operate in a mode that is transparent to the end user. Companies need to
do more than just monitor their Internet
traffic, they need true zero-day protection
and unified threat management.”

Smart Business asked Davis what true
zero-day protection and unified threat management mean and why they’re so important in today’s business climate.

What is true zero-day protection?

One-day protection would mean that an
attack can be handled within one day of
identifying it, but we understand that businesses cannot be inoperative for an entire
day. Zero-day protection refers to the ability
to defend against threats that are not yet
known. This way when a new attack
emerges, there is no window of vulnerability for the network being attacked. There are
many new attacks launched each year; however, most of these attacks use techniques
closely related to previous attacks.

Nevertheless, zero-day protection requires
our ability to identify an attack-like behavior
and be able to respond to it, even if the attack is not yet identified. By understanding the typical classes of attacks, defense
mechanisms can be developed that defend
against whole classes of attacks. This is
much more effective than the reactive, signature-based technologies that rely on fingerprinting each new attack as it emerges.

Why is the ‘true’ so important?

Many vendors make zero-day claims, but
in reality, their security solutions rely solely
on signature-based scanning. Signature-based security technologies fingerprint each
new attack after it emerges, so protection
comes when this fingerprint, or signature, is
added to the system. Although they have
some very good global methodologies for
quickly detecting new threat outbreaks and
updating their signatures, this is not zero-day protection. By their nature, signatures
are reactive; they cannot protect against
new, previously unknown attacks until an
update is available. But this technique is
only one piece of a complete solution. You
need zero-day protection combined with
robust signature-based scanning to have
comprehensive unified threat management.

What is unified threat management?

It is an emerging trend in the appliance
security market referring to the ability to
manage all potential security threats using a
single device. Unified threat management
appliances have evolved from traditional
firewall and VPN appliances into a solution
that has many additional capabilities, such
as URL filtering, spam blocking, spyware
protection, intrusion prevention and gateway anti-virus, as well as centralized management, monitoring and logging capabilities, all functions previously handled by
multiple systems.

What are the benefits of unified threat management?

Unified threat management solutions are
significantly more efficient with regards to
cost, management and space efficiency.
Integrating multiple security capabilities
into a single appliance means that you can
purchase and use fewer appliances, eliminating the cost of building layered security
with separately purchased solutions and
training on each of those devices. Plus, it
stops attacks at the network gateway. The
multilayered security approach offered by
unified threat management appliances lets
you avert catastrophe by blocking a broad
range of network threats before they have
the opportunity to enter your network.
Malicious code will not have the opportunity to disable security at the desktop or server level, and business-critical files and applications remain available to keep employees
on the job.

Using separate security systems for layered security means also using different
management consoles to configure each
system. Because the management paradigms of these systems are typically very
different, it is time-consuming to make sure
the different security policies on each system work together to provide adequate protection. Log information that is stored in different formats and in different locations
makes detection and analysis of security
events difficult.

CRAIG DAVIS is the executive vice president for SLPowers in Boca Raton, Fla. Reach him at [email protected] or (561) 886-5090.

Monitoring bandwidth

Everything about business has gotten
faster with the advent of the Internet.
Accessing the World Wide Web for advertising, research, marketing, recruiting, data hosting and hundreds of other
things has quickly moved business into the
21st century and beyond. While the
Internet has made life and business easier,
it’s also opened the door to a host of new
problems.

“An inherent part of being connected is
dealing with the ever-changing threats that
bombard an organization,” says Bob
Hochmuth, vice president of SLPowers.
“Lately, spyware via your standard HTTP
connection has become the threat of
choice for hackers and wrongdoers
because it can be very difficult to stop. It
acts like normal Web content but can bring
a computer or an entire network down in
just moments.”

Smart Business spoke with Hochmuth
about the perils of the Internet and how
bandwidth management and HTTP filtering
can be very beneficial to an organization.

Why does a business have to be concerned
with controlling Internet use within its organization?

Computer use in organizations has
grown from only the information worker
in the past to almost everyone in the
organization today. We’ve seen that roughly 40 percent of a business’s Internet traffic
is dedicated to Web browsing. The fastest-growing challenge, however, is the other
60 percent of traffic — the portion that is
being used for Internet-dependent applications. The challenge is that some of these
applications are highly critical, like Voice
over Internet Protocol (VoIP), online CRM
tools, banking and remote access, while
others are noncritical or detrimental, like
peer-to-peer downloads, instant messaging, streaming music and video, or recreational file downloads.

What are the costs of ignoring this issue?

Unfortunately, along with increased
Internet use comes increased Internet misuse, traffic congestion and new threats to
the organization via spyware, viruses and malware attached to Internet pages. At
today’s salaries, every minute not spent
being effective adds up to serious money.
Lost productivity can never be regained.
Threats allowed into the business can be
catastrophic. Corporate informational assets can be transferred through the network, causing loss of market share and lost
revenue. Legal issues can befall a company
by not protecting the corporate information. It’s interesting how many organizations simply think that they need more
bandwidth when, in actuality, they have
plenty. It is just being misused.

What can an organization do to combat the
issues?

The biggest issue we see is that many
companies leave the wide-open Internet
problem unaddressed or underaddressed.
Organizations are starting to realize they
need to control traffic to regain business
performance and productivity, and to mitigate threats and legal issues. Failure to
control Internet traffic will cost organizations hard money. Many companies try to
control some of this through ‘acceptable
use’ policies and Web filtering software.

There are myriad secure Web gateway
devices on the market that will allow you
to control browsing access to some extent.
Most of them will keep nonthreatening
users out of trouble from inappropriate
content. But organizations need to protect
themselves from the traffic that users generate and the malicious users that are trying to get past the standard safeguards.
Controlling this jumble of applications
takes sophisticated hardware and software, and it needs to be managed.

What are the best ways to manage bandwidth
and content?

An organization needs to understand
what is happening out there and ‘see’ its
Internet traffic to create the proper
defense. We have an increase of social networking and streaming media entering the
organization. We have IM where corporate
information can flow unseen. Much of this
could be legitimate use of the Internet, but
users are becoming more sophisticated
and have been able to bypass systems in
place and fool employers.

Preferred solutions, which truly allow
you to ‘see’ your traffic, perform a deep
packet inspection, report the results of
both content and application, and correlate
by user, group, time of day, upload/download size, etc. Once you have gathered this
information, you can set the solution to
meet your policies. Some filtering solutions
offer an ‘on or off’ approach to traffic. The
better ones can prioritize an application
and dedicate a minimum and maximum
amount of bandwidth to it.

Make sure you’re looking at all components of your Internet bandwidth. Make
sure you can manage bandwidth, HTTP
content and the applications that access
your Internet connection. Also, let employees know about the safeguards you deploy
to protect them and the company’s assets.
When evaluating technology, be aware of
the actual capabilities of the solution.

BOB HOCHMUTH is vice president of SLPowers, with offices serving South Florida and Metro Atlanta. Reach him at (561) 718-7203
or [email protected].

A landlords’ market?

In today’s commercial real estate market,
it’s the best of times or it’s the worst of
times, depending on whom you ask.
“It depends on what side of the negotiating table you are currently on,” says Laurel
Oswald, vice president of leasing for
Transwestern’s Miami office. “The next 18 to
24 months will continue to be an extremely
landlord-favorable market with tenants finding themselves in a position of fewer options
for available space on top of the skyrocketing rental rates and operating expenses. I am
seeing on a daily basis the difficulties that
tenants are experiencing in terms of their
corporate real estate in today’s market.”

Smart Business spoke with Oswald about
what companies face with upcoming lease
expirations or seeking relocations,what they
can expect for the near future and what
advice she would give them.

What are some of the challenges facing tenants in today’s office market?

It is somewhat of a perfect storm scenario
right now for tenants within the Miami-Dade
office market. Options are very limited in
terms of available space, with overall vacancy rates at less than 10 percent countywide
and even as low as 5 percent in Coral Gables
and other particular submarkets. Rental
rates are at an all-time high in the Brickell
and Downtown Central Business District
(CBD) markets and are rapidly approaching,
in some areas, $50 per square foot in the
Class A properties. In addition, there are little to no concessions being offered to tenants, and the near 3 million square feet of
new product under construction in Miami-Dade is not scheduled to deliver until 2010 or
2011. To compound this problem, in the last
few years, tenants have been hit with
tremendous increases [10 to 20 percent] in
operating expenses, primarily due to insurance and property taxes. Many buildings
have also recently traded, causing tax
reassessments and owners needing higher
rents in order to justify the purchase price.

Are there any value opportunities currently
available to tenants in today’s office market?

We have started to see an increase in sub-lease space recently becoming available due to downsizing and the downturn in the mortgage and residential real estate industries.
These spaces are being offered at rates substantially less than current market rates and
can be a viable alternative for companies
looking to wait out the present landlord
favorable conditions until 2010 or 2011 when
the new deliveries now under construction
are scheduled to come on-line.

Another trend that we have started to see
are companies presently located in Class A
buildings that have been paying mid-to-low
$30 per square foot that are unwilling to
absorb the 20 percent-plus rate increase to
renew. They are considering relocating to
Class B space with high-end build-outs in
order to maintain rental rate equilibrium
within the CBD.

What effect will the new deliveries have on
rental rates?

Time will tell, but now that Class A properties have surpassed $40 per square foot, we
expect that rents may flatten, but we don’t
foresee a dramatic decrease in rates once
new product is delivered. These new Class A
projects are projected to achieve mid-$40
per-square-foot rents in order to justify their costs of construction and land. That being
said, there will be many more alternatives
available creating movement of tenants from
building to building. We may see some incentives and concessions return to the market in
order to entice and secure tenants.

What is the most important piece of advice
that you can give your clients in today’s
market?

Engage a commercial real estate professional to uncover opportunities, analyze the
alternatives and to ensure that if construction is required it will be delivered on time
and on budget. Don’t underestimate how
long the relocation process can actually take
from looking at the alternatives to actual
move-in. Waiting too long to start the
process will result in even fewer viable alternatives and very little leverage in negotiations. We recommend starting the process at
least one year prior to a lease expiration
date. It typically takes several months to analyze all the options, make a selection and
fully execute a lease.

Unless a company is fortunate enough to
find a space where the design works ‘as-is,’
depending on the scope of the build-out and
the municipality issuing a permit, it could
take as long as six months just to deliver the
space. If the process is not managed in a
timely manner, it can result in delays for
move-in, ultimately creating a holdover scenario after lease expiration for the tenant in
its current location. During this holdover
period the tenant will likely incur a 150 to
200 percent rental rate premium.

We analyze the lease transaction as a
whole picture. The lowest rental rate does
not always equate to the most cost-effective
long-term deal. Many factors, such as building and operational efficiencies, strength of
ownership and options within a lease, need
to be carefully considered and structured
prior to making a long-term decision, especially in today’s dynamic office market.

LAUREL OSWALD is the vice president of leasing for Transwestern’s Miami office. Reach her at [email protected] or
(305) 808-7820.

Making the most of ‘voice’

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a
protocol optimized for the transmission of voice through the Internet or other packet switched networks, is a hot
concept in today’s business world.

The first IP software, released in 1995,
remained with large corporations that could
afford the benefits that the innovative technology provided. In 2006, however, with the
expansion of lower cost broadband, VoIP
successfully hit the mass market and
became popular with small and mediumsized businesses. With today’s availability
and the affordability of VoIP services, integrating this technology has become an
essential in industry competitors, both small
and large.

“VoIP is now a mature, well-developed
offering,” says Bob Hochmuth, vice president of SLPowers. “Even major carriers like
AT&T use VoIP to transport traditional voice
traffic between their offices and other carriers, so, in a way, you are already using VoIP.”

Smart Business spoke with Hochmuth
about VoIP and how it can benefit your current and future business.

Why are companies switching to VoIP?

Companies are moving to VoIP because
of the benefits. Companies are simplifying
their business, leveraging low-cost data
lines instead of higher-priced phone lines
and supporting one data transport instead
of two. Voice is simply another type of data.
This can save businesses the service call for
any changes to the system, such as new
users, office moves, etc. Adopters also gain
the enterprise features like four-digit dialing between their offices, no long distance
charges between offices, and remote dial
tone to help lower costs and increase
efficiency.

You now have one point of contact, allowing you to stay in touch as if you never left
the office. This will help save valuable time
and money, increasing customer satisfaction and enhancing employee productivity.

How is VoIP delivered?

With the growth of VoIP, an advanced
method of delivering the technology has
emerged: the concept of a hosted solution.

A hosted solution takes the phone switch
out of your office and phone service is
delivered across the Internet as an application service. The business model follows
SAAS (Software As A Service). It’s the outsourcing of your voice system, lowering
your costs, adding benefits and increasing
your ROI.

What are the additional benefits of a hosted
solution?

Switching to a hosted IP solution means
no longer investing thousands of dollars
into a system that requires hands-on management and gives little room to grow.
With a hosted solution, the system grows
along with the company by simply moving
or adding seats and bandwidth as needed
— anytime, anywhere. You are sharing the
use of an enterprise switch with enterprise
capabilities. It is scalable. You can rapidly
deploy new phones at offices as you grow
and just as easily scale the service back to
save money in a downturn or in a changing
environment.

It adds disaster recovery and business
continuance. The switch is housed in a
tier-one facility — you have the ability to continue to use your phone system in a
disaster by moving your phone to any
working Internet connection. Also, should
you ever need to move your office for any
reason, you don’t have to plan a target
transfer date of phone service — just
move and plug in your phone at the new
location with Internet connectivity.
Finally, it saves money, increases productivity, and you are not locked in to a hosted vendor.

Are there any downsides?

As with all innovative ventures and new
technologies, VoIP had a few hurdles to
overcome when it first hit the mainstream
market. 911 services were an issue, but the
industry has developed e911 to address
the problem. There has also been some
apprehension regarding voice quality or
Quality of Service (QoS). But, throughout
the past two years, new high-definition
voice technology has surpassed the original (PSTN) phone system.

Hosted IP services are also dependent on
high-speed connections, making some
uneasy over the allocation of voice versus
data and connectivity quality. To ease
apprehension, some providers are now
offering a free trial of their services, allowing the interested a chance to get acquainted with the new system and experience its
QoS and benefits.

How can companies stay ahead of the game?

As with all technology, know what you
are buying and choose a respected vendor.
The worldwide market for hosted voice
and applications will reach $36.7 billion in
2010. With the United States accompanying 18 percent of that market, IP telephony
in one form or another will give competitors the edge with its wide range of benefits and ROI opportunities. Adopting an IP
telephony system may put you ahead of
the game in your industry.

BOB HOCHMUTH is vice president of SLPowers, with offices in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Atlanta. Reach him at (561) 718-7203 or [email protected].

Know your landlord

Tenants often concentrate on high-level points such as location,
price and building status to guide their real estate strategies. However,
there are key elements that are often
overlooked by these corporate users
when it comes to their landlord, such
as their financial strengths, expertise,
experiences and their reputation with
like assets.

“Tenants often don’t give much thought
to who owns the building they lease
space in — that is, until something goes
wrong in either maintenance, management or expenses,” says Josh Gibbons,
Senior Associate of Transwestern South
Florida.

“Upfront due diligence from behind the
numbers can go a long way in minimizing the potential negative exposure for
tenants.”

Smart Business asked Gibbons how
a choice in ownership could affect the
bottom line of your business.

What is important to know about the ownership of your office building?

There are numerous reasons the ownership of your office building is instrumental in the analysis of a company’s
occupancy strategy, but perhaps most
important is ownership’s role in the way
a building operates.

The operation of a project includes
the services of leasing agents, property
management staff, engineers, architects, general contractors, attorneys,
accountants and risk management professionals. A sophisticated landlord not
only has a better understanding of the
unique value that each skill set brings to
the asset, but also can better allocate
the cost of these resources across multiple projects.

Inexperienced owners sometimes try
to combine, or even eliminate, some of
these cost items in order to improve
their margins to the detriment of the building operations and ultimately their
tenants.

How does the right management team
make the difference?

The property management firm is the
face of ownership; they are the ones
who oversee the general maintenance
and upkeep of the property. The
responsiveness and services of the
management team speak volumes
about the owner’s commitment, as well
as the working environment for tenants. For a prospective tenant, knowing how well a property is managed or
the attentiveness of the owner is difficult to assess in a 15-minute tour.
However, a couple of areas are good
indicators and can easily be checked,
starting with the upkeep of the parking
area/garage. The building lobby and
condition of the space and the bathrooms on a common floor are all good
areas of the building to examine as you
do your walk through.

What are some trends that owners and tenants will face in the next five years?

One interesting trend is the move
toward environmentally responsible
office environments. Metropolitan
cities throughout the U.S. are mandating or at least motivating owners and
developers to become more environmentally aware. The Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED®) for existing buildings provides an avenue for a property to position itself in a way that maximizes operational efficiency while minimizing
environmental impact.

While initial costs are incurred to
bring a building up to LEED® standards, tenants will benefit in the long
run in several ways. You could expect
to see energy savings, water use savings, and waste cost savings. Tenants in
green buildings often also see a
decrease in labor costs as a result of
less absenteeism, increased productivity, and overall higher worker satisfaction.

How does ownership affect a company’s
tenancy?

How a landlord operates a building
impacts the working environment for
your employees from satisfaction to
productivity retention. As a tenant, you
are making a long-term commitment
(typically five years) to occupy space,
and in essence, are ‘married’ to your
landlord once you sign the deal. An
untidy building that is poorly managed
can cost a business far more in employee turnover and expenses than a dollar
or two savings on the per-square-foot
rent. So before you lock into your next
lease, know your landlord’s history.

JOSH GIBBONS is Senior Associate at Transwestern in brokerage services. Reach him at [email protected] or (305) 808-7318.

A manageable concept

By most accounts, there’s much
improvement to be had in information technology (IT) management.

Some companies think their IT departments are fine as they are, while others
don’t think about it at all. Many settle for
average performance because they don’t
know things can be better.

But, there is an answer: managed services, a basket of services that supports the IT
needs of corporate customers. A managed
services provider can provide all the services required by enterprise organizations to
small and medium-sized businesses. It’s a
collection of IT support services that
avoids and mitigates business impacts that
result from IT failures.

“The knowledge of a managed services
team ensures that the skill sets needed are
available,” says Craig Davis, executive vice
president of SLPowers. “Using a freelancer
or internal IT person guarantees that they
will handle issues that they’re not qualified
to support.”

Smart Business spoke with Davis about
managed services and how they can save
your company time, money and headaches.

What are common misconceptions concerning IT?

Virtually every company in America
believes they have a cost-effective and
practical IT management solution, yet very
few find an ideal balance between the level
of service and cost. This is because either
the IT staff misinforms the C-level people
or because they simply don’t understand
the ROI that efficient IT can provide them.
Many people we meet operate companies
that run IT on a shoestring budget, squeezing out every last ounce of life from hardware and software, operating IT on the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
These companies treat IT only as a cost,
and, more often than not, they ignore the
true cost that operating inefficiently has on
their bottom line. Many others think
they’re already running their IT departments efficiently and are unwilling to
accept that IT can lead the organization to
new levels of productivity and profitability.
Why are so many CEOs content to settle for highly inefficient IT management
methodologies? Because they and their IT
staffs simply don’t know any better.

How can managed services help with these
problems?

Managed services is a method of IT service delivery through which you can provide
the same or more value to a customer as an
internal IT department delivers in a large
enterprise but in a pay-only-for-what-you-need model that makes financial sense for
even the small business owner. The purpose of IT, in a very general sense, is to
automate or enable business processes,
thereby allowing an organization to do
something that otherwise couldn’t be done
or alternately would cost exponentially
more to accomplish. So it’s ultimately
about creating productivity and value —
and the function of the IT support staff
with respect to that value is twofold: to
ensure that existing systems continue to
appropriately support and enable the business processes and to recommend and
deliver new solutions that will help drive
more productivity and value in new ways.

What makes a good managed services program?

A good managed services program is
designed to be a collection of IT support
services that avoids and mitigates business
impacts that result from IT failures. While
IT enables great leaps in productivity, it is
also a source of incredible business risk.
While we have database systems that allow
us to store and retrieve limitless aspects of
customer information, that information is
vulnerable. A failure to manage the vulnerabilities may result in huge amounts of IT
downtime, information loss and theft or
worse — civil or even criminal penalties.
An effective managed services program
manages these types of risks, effectively
reducing the threat to an ‘acceptable’ level
to the customer where cost and the level of
risk intersect on an ROI chart. Managed
services providers offer many types of
services to their customers — in a cost-effective and highly scalable way.

Why is a managed services program better
than an internally staffed IT department or a
freelance technician?

More services and knowledge than one
person is capable of. Managed services
programs retain expertise across a broad
spectrum of IT specialties, guaranteeing
that the solutions and skills needed are
available. They invest heavily in enterprise-class diagnostic and monitoring tools, and
the cost can be spread over hundreds or
thousands of customers, saving the company and its customers a lot of money. This
allows for the automation of common
management tasks, such as backup management, anti-virus and security management, and results in substantial cost savings over the freelancer or internal IT person models. Services are completely scalable. As the economy changes and companies grow or downsize, managed services
programs scale service levels to reflect
only what the customer needs or can
afford.

CRAIG DAVIS is the executive vice president for SLPowers in Boca Raton, Fla. Reach him at [email protected] or (561) 395-1308
x4222.

The gift that keeps on giving

Although the holidays are behind us,
there’s no reason the giving spirit
should end. Many charities need assistance year-round, and getting your company
involved in charities will not only help those
less fortunate in your community, it will also
help your business and your employees.

“Individuals and companies that get
involved with charities will almost always
get more out of the experience than they
can ever put in, but it takes more than
a financial commitment,” says Ben
Eisenberg, Managing Director of
Transwestern and Chair-Elect of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida.
Eisenberg has been involved in numerous
charities at the Board level for the past 11
years. “To truly make a difference, you
need to put in time and effort and you need
to be passionate about what you’re doing.

“Before becoming a Board member of a
charity, you need to identify a cause that
will drive your interest over time, understand the different roles and responsibilities of the Board and be clear about what
will be expected of you and/or your company. You must embrace the charity’s mission and have a passion for the charitable
goals and philosophies of the organization.
It’s important to have a feeling of personal
engagement and excitement for the cause
that you select.”

Smart Business spoke with Eisenberg
about how companies can take part in
charitable endeavors and the various benefits that come with getting involved.

What kind of commitment is expected of a
Board member by a nonprofit organization?

As business people, time is a valuable
commodity that we must carefully allocate.
I often speak of being passionate about the
organization and its mission because giving
our time requires sacrifice away from our
family, business and personal activities. To
many, the giving of their time is their single
greatest commitment. In addition, a Board
member must have a willingness to share
this knowledge and experience with others, even those who may be looked at as
competitors in the business world.
Furthermore, members must be comfortable when calling on their network of friends, business associates and relatives
for support. Most charitable Boards have
the common ‘give/get’ commitment, where
there is an expectation to donate and raise
a minimum amount of funds. In all of this,
it is critical that one understands the
responsibilities, time and energy required
of participating on a Board prior to joining.

How does a company benefit by being
involved in a charitable organization?

First, it allows companies the chance to
develop long-term partnerships and relationships with different people within their
community who share similar values.
Secondly, because everyone is working
together toward one common goal, it is an
opportunity for employees to join together
and share knowledge with those who they
may not often interact with on a day-to-day
basis, improving on team building in an
environment outside of the office. Thirdly,
when your company is active in the community, it acts as a channel for more reach
and exposure. Finally, and most importantly, the act of giving and compassion by supporting our community not only makes one
a better business and company but fulfills
an obligation that many companies have to
give back to the community. Transwestern
encourages all salaried employees to dedicate one work day each year, with pay, to
volunteer with a charity of their choice. Our
non-salaried employees dedicate thousands
of hours each year to various charities.

What are the business benefits for an individual?

You are surrounding yourself with people
with a varied degree of skill sets, history
and experiences, which often open our
minds to new ideas that we may not have
thought of.

From a broader sense, because one is
constantly being exposed to new surroundings and people, it is a great tool for
developing upon skills, such as leadership,
communication, organization, networking
and management. Most importantly, you
are surrounded by individuals who share
the same common goal, which can help
develop a sense of self-identity.

What are the personal benefits of charitable
participation at the Board level?

Giving back to the community where you
work and live is fulfilling. Knowing that
you are helping others and making a difference is satisfying. I have always had the
mindset that when you help someone less
fortunate, you are better able to appreciate
what you have. The time and effort you
devote toward charity work can also be a
pleasurable way to separate from the daily
stress in your own life. And lastly, I have
found from my involvement with the
Make-A-Wish Foundation, the most rewarding part is hearing from parents and
the children themselves about what a difference the granted wish made and how it
changed the child’s life forever. At the end
of the day, knowing that you actually
helped make a difference in someone’s life
is probably one of the best feelings you can
ask for. I highly recommend that if you are
not already involved with a charity to start
by asking yourself what you’re passionate
about and then find an organization that
shares the same goals and passion.

BEN EISENBERG is the Managing Director of Transwestern.
Reach him at [email protected] or (305) 808-7826.

Are you secure?

The realm of Internet security is ever-changing and often confusing, even to
the savviest IT professional. Hackers are creating new malware, spyware and
viruses practically by the minute, and if
you’re not protected, your company is in
danger of losing customer trust, putting
yourself at a competitive disadvantage or
even opening yourself up to legal troubles.
Simple virus detection isn’t enough anymore, according to Craig Davis, executive
vice president of SLPowers. With so many
servers and computers online these days,
viruses propagate so quickly that millions of
computers can be infected before anti-virus
software even knows that virus exists.

“Your network firewall may not be doing
all that it should be doing,” Davis says.
“Companies today need a firewall that
offers multiple levels of protection, including junk e-mail filtering, anti-virus capability,
an intrusion detection or prevention system,
and World Wide Web content filtering, on
top of traditional firewall features. These
application-layer firewalls use proxies to
process and forward all incoming traffic,
though they operate in a mode that is transparent to the end user. Companies need to
do more than just monitor their Internet
traffic, they need true zero-day protection
and unified threat management.”

Smart Business asked Davis what true
zero-day protection and unified threat management mean and why they’re so important in today’s business climate.

What is true zero-day protection?

One-day protection would mean that an
attack can be handled within one day of
identifying it, but we understand that businesses cannot be inoperative for an entire
day. Zero-day protection refers to the ability
to defend against threats that are not yet
known. This way when a new attack
emerges, there is no window of vulnerability for the network being attacked. There are
many new attacks launched each year; however, most of these attacks use techniques
closely related to previous attacks.

Nevertheless, zero-day protection requires
our ability to identify an attack-like behavior
and be able to respond to it, even if the
attack is not yet identified. By understanding the typical classes of attacks, defense
mechanisms can be developed that defend
against hole classes of attacks. This is
much more effective than the reactive, signature-based technologies that rely on fingerprinting each new attack as it emerges.

Why is the ‘true’ so important?

Many vendors make zero-day claims, but
in reality, their security solutions rely solely
on signature-based scanning. Signature-based security technologies fingerprint each
new attack after it emerges, so protection
comes when this fingerprint, or signature, is
added to the system. Although they have
some very good global methodologies for
quickly detecting new threat outbreaks and
updating their signatures, this is not zero-day protection. By their nature, signatures
are reactive; they cannot protect against
new, previously unknown attacks until an
update is available. But this technique is
only one piece of a complete solution. You
need zero-day protection combined with
robust signature-based scanning to have
comprehensive unified threat management.

What is unified threat management?

It is an emerging trend in the appliance
security market referring to the ability to manage all potential security threats using a
single device. Unified threat management
appliances have evolved from traditional
firewall and VPN appliances into a solution
that has many additional capabilities, such
as URL filtering, spam blocking, spyware
protection, intrusion prevention and gateway anti-virus, as well as centralized management, monitoring and logging capabilities, all functions previously handled by
multiple systems.

What are the benefits of unified threat management?

Unified threat management solutions are
significantly more efficient with regards to
cost, management and space efficiency.
Integrating multiple security capabilities
into a single appliance means that you can
purchase and use fewer appliances, eliminating the cost of building layered security
with separately purchased solutions and
training on each of those devices. Plus, it
stops attacks at the network gateway. The
multilayered security approach offered by
unified threat management appliances lets
you avert catastrophe by blocking a broad
range of network threats before they have
the opportunity to enter your network.
Malicious code will not have the opportunity to disable security at the desktop or server level, and business-critical files and applications remain available to keep employees
on the job.

Using separate security systems for layered security means also using different
management consoles to configure each
system. Because the management paradigms of these systems are typically very
different, it is time-consuming to make sure
the different security policies on each system work together to provide adequate protection. Log information that is stored in different formats and in different locations
makes detection and analysis of security
events difficult.

CRAIG DAVIS is the executive vice president for SLPowers in
Boca Raton, Fla. Reach him at [email protected] or (561)
886-5090.