Category: Finance

 

Business Security Insights: Is your business safe using cloud technology, cloud data?

Cloud Uploading (Database)

“Data is the new oil? No: Data is the new soil.” – David McCandless

SOIL DATA
Grow your livelihood on, food, house etc. Grow your business with
Protect from external damage, e.g. pestilence, pollution, wind etc. Virus Protection
Protect from Theft with fences and security Security, firewalls, good IT practices, backups

This analogy is really quite apt once considered.  Therefore knowing how safe cloud technology is it is vital you plan to use this technology for your business.  Most companies have or are already using cloud technology due directly to the lower costs that are associated with this technology.

The answer of safety relies on legal and trust aspects in its response and generally this relates to the dollars invested and the federal laws that apply to your cloud based location.

In this article, I will explore some of the areas of Safety that you have control of.

In House Server, Rent Infrastructure, or Rent Space and Infrastructure?

Recently I chatted with a corporate IT manager, and we discussed the pros and cons of exactly this option.  Due to a company mandate, this companies board has selected that this company may not “rent” space on another company’s server.  They feel the risk is too high. Instead they have opted to have their own server – in house.  This has led to all sorts of bottle necking, as they simply do not have the internet resources to service their own needs.

So what to do.  They either need to invest in massive infrastructure – which frankly is a waste of money, or they can rent the infrastructure and still have their own server.  There are many companies that offer this, one of which is a new SA based company called YourDC.  The advantage of such a solution is that this is a halfway step.  You control your own server. You own your own data. You manage your server.  You have access to your server and you decide who else will have access.  Totally in your control.  The only part you are renting is the infrastructure to house the server and supply the access e.g. internet access to and from your server.  For this corporate company, this is the right way to go, based on the board decisions.  This is not a cheap option, as maintaining and caring for a server, costs quite a lot of money.

In short the infrastructure for this cloud solution is like a countries infrastructure.  You still own your own land, and you pay rent to use the roads, sewerage etc.

Now, if you elect to have your data Hosted, this means, that you are renting not only the infrastructure, but also the physical space for your data to reside.  If this is your option, you really ought to read on about other safety considerations.

How to select a Safe Hosting Solution.

We are all still reeling from the events in Paris on the 7th of November. Obviously the terrorist had an impact, and the governments stand against terrorism, has a direct impact on stored data.  So if you wish to have control of your data, the government rights over your data must be considered.  My recommendation is that you should locate your data in the country that your business head office resides.  E.g. if you work in the USA, your data should reside in the USA.  If you work in Australia your data should reside in Australia.

This statement has a cost associated.  It is initially cheaper to have data reside in a 3rd world country, but what are the long term costs.   The question is – what is the cost to your data if it is not residing in your own country.

So what if you have an international company, e.g. you sell or work in more than one location.  There are still solutions for you.

There are quite a few hosting companies that offer multi location servers. E.g. Amazon and Rackspace.  You can actually have multiple servers based in different countries.

In fact this is just 2 of the main players in this arena, there are literally thousands of such companies. This leads us to the issue of how to choose a safe company to be with.

How to choose a Safe Hosting Company?

I have learnt from years of experience as a business manager, that generally the old proverbs are true.   “You get what you pay for”. This scenario was almost tailor made for this statement.  I have used many hosting companies.  Some are really cheap and some are really expensive.  But each offers different levels of data safety and protection.

To give you a specific example.  As a database developer, I often need administrator level access to work on databases for my clients. One internet hosting company, once they provided this to me, I had access to ALL their clients’ data, not just my clients. I could have copied, shared and deleted data from any company.  All this access was given to me freely.  By the way, this company was an Australian promoted and located company based in Victoria.

I have also had very economic companies that really gave great value and service for money.  Once such company is Azure. This discounted option, is discounted because it is limited to servicing ONLY MS SQL solutions.  So in fact Microsoft have discounted this service as part of a marketing or promotion solution to promote their own products.

For Accede’s development we mainly use Amazon, however we have also used Rackspace for quite a few clients.  The reason we do this, is because these companies offer the best flexibility, safety and reliability that we can viably afford.  So why do we say Safety so easily and what do I consider when I say the word Safety.  Accede also use Azure for its MS SQL datbase solutions.

Safety with the hosting company consists of:

  • Security for your data
  • Is their server reasonably well protected – how easy is it to hack?
  • Do they invest in the security of their servers
  • What do they have to lose if they are hacked and it becomes public information
  • How easy is it to communicate with their technicians if we see or find an issue.
  • What country holds the server
  • What partners etc. are they linked with that may have an impact.

Now, these are the points that I review when considering were to allow our valuable data to reside.  All this information is quite easily available in reviews, company website, and general blogs.

Finally Protection

Most hosted servers, have one or more levels of firewall protection. Most also have virus and malware protection.  However, is that enough and what other options are available?

This is where data encryption, security certificates, and the server settings are vital.

It is so easy to allow anyone access to your data – in fact it is easiest.  But the issue then is that the data is public-ally available.  So getting your host initial set up established correctly is vital. Plus this is something that should be periodically checked, as upgrades, changes etc. all can affect your setups.

My suggestion, is that this should be reviewed regularly and reported on as part of your disaster recovery checks. Microsoft recommend this be done done monthly or at least quarterly.  With that stated, I suggest that if you care for your data then don’t defer this any longer than twice a year.

Level of Desire/Competition will increase your risk.

Many years ago one of my clients – involved in Manure Sales, was being targeted and regular hack attempts where being made our of India.  Reverse checks, showed that a competitive business really wanted the data, and this meant that they were paying others to “get” the data for them.  We increased the security and the problem went away.

If your data is desired, then expect that you will have to invest more in time and money to protect your data.  Realize that even the highest invested companies have been hacked.  So there is nothing, cloud or local that cannot be hacked.  What you need to do, is make it so hard to hack, that is just not worth the effort.

So often friends have asked me if I can “hack” their data.  Generally these businesses have no real lock on their firewalls, their password is often Password, date of birth or 123, and they have not altered their password in months.  This is not what I would call hacking, I really call this looking.  For these people the shock I see when they realize that getting to all their data is easy.   What is often not understood, is that when you can’t get your data, it is corrupt, locked, forgotten passwords, etc.  It is companies like Accede that get your data for you.   So I suggest you have some good IT standards, checks and backups in place.  Remember your backups contain your data, so security of these also matters.

Is my business safe using cloud technology, cloud data?

That depends on:

  • How you set up your cloud service
  • Desired level of security
  • Checking
  • Caliber of companies you partner with
  • And the level of desire your data holds.

I hope this article has given you an insight and areas to consider.  Remember as a manager, you don’t have to know all the answers, but you have to know who to ask, and the right questions to ask.

If you have any questions or comments. I am happy to not only receive them, but I will respond to them also.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Accounting Software Packages Which way to go?

Welcome back to work and 2015. I get this question so often, and this year is no exception, that I have decided to blog about this. The question I get, We are reviewing our accounting and have heard about, what you think about this?

In the Market place there are many Accounting Packages and they all target different style businesses. What I will focus on here is the Small to Midrange business size packages that are most popular in the market.

Here they are… Accounting packages for your Business

xero4Xero  This is a relatively newer product to the market place. Xero I have found to offer a wonderful cloud based solution for small to mid range businesses. If you have fair to reasonable internet, then this product is one that is definitely worth investigating. I have found that their speed to do jobs, e.g. invoice, remit, pay, reconcile is excellent for a cloud based product. They have a good backup option and data can be easily exported. Disadvantages, if a business wants more or the business needs change, then you will probably end up having to change product suppliers. This product was specifically created for the small to mid cloud based accounting market. It is very good in this area in terms of performance and usage. Xero created a developers area and this is dynamically growing. Xero is definitely the leading kid on the block. This product is now being taught at most Major Tafe colleges and WEA, but as yet, this is not big in the schools area.

myob2MYOB MYOB was a little slow in getting a good cloud based solution for the small to mid business range, but it has that now. The reason it was a little slow, is due to a massive advantage that Xero does not offer. That being that MYOB has a lot of other products in its range. For example if you have MYOB Account Right Premier and are supported, you automatically get the cloud version included in your support free. You can upgrade to MYOB Enterprise if your business grows. They purchased the accountants version of Sol6, a document manager (not so good for accountants), and a range of other accountant tools that automatically integrate with MYOB Account right, Essential or Enterprise. So in truth, MYOB has the range and accountant support. MYOB also has a great developer range. This is a set of products that developers have created that plug into MYOB to make MYOB do so many other things e.g. Subscriptions, Onsite Technician and auto billing, Pricing there are many options with MYOB and if you want flexibility and expect growth MYOB would be the tool to look at. This product also handles all the Australian Payroll rules.

MYOB is also the product most taught with WEA, Tafe, Schools so getting qualified users or temps is really easy.

quick4Quicken This is not as popular in Australia as Xero or MYOB, but World Wide, this is a top seller for small to mid range accounting. One of the best features of Quicken is its ease of use and terminology for Non Accountant Managers. Quicken just makes sense to Managers and Business owners. Quicken is one of the oldest accounting products and really started as a cashbook based product so it came from the perspective of managing a business not the Accountants perspective. Quicken Cloud is fast and stream lined, but not so nice to develop applications with. This area is still a limited in flexibility. I have also found that this is not as Australianised in respect to reports, payroll and changes in legislation. This is rarely taught in Tafe, WEA or schools, so generally you are seeking people that already have experience or you have book keepers that are able to learn this product via on line courses.

So Cloud or Not?

In short this is a money question. Today if you have a non cloud based system, your only cost is support. If you wish to go to cloud, you will have a monthly fee. Cloud however is the way to go if you are new to an accounting product and yes there is a fee so be prepared to pay, but you will have no purchase fee and that is the benefit of cloud based. In the end you will find the pricing is pretty similar.

Cloud is the way to go. However for some total cloud is not an option as yet due to speed, product performance, etc. However if a business is not using cloud for backup, storage and other base functions they really need to review their IT and the costs of their IT.

So how do you decide?

Start by asking your accountant what they use and they suggest. Accounting costs are huge and if using the same product as them will save you money do it. Look at your business plan, model, developed products, costs. See what your competitors use and what they think of their tools. Finally read the above I have no affiliation with any product. I have customers using all of these products and I therefore see these products from quite a different perspective. In short they will all do book keeping. But which is the best product for you, well in the end you need to decide this, but don’t be surprised if with experience you change products.

 

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Should Companies risk everything to get Investors?

investingOver the 30 years of business, there have been good times and bad. I have questioned what I am doing, made course changes, made good decisions and bad. One of the areas I have questioned has been investors? I have also spent a lot of time reviewing this option, attending course and building knowledge. The reason I am documenting my answer to this question is to save time for future business owners.

This is the end result of this question. The question is totally personal and life dependent. Investors however are not necessarily financial investors, they may be knowledge, experience, even partnerships of a commercial relationship. However what is important, is that the journey to deciding this for your business, is where the value lies.

As you review your options, clean up your own business documentation, clarify your position even if just mentally, you will realize your own worth, and even if you wish to have an investor(s).

The question often relates to the reason you have begun to consider having investors. For most people this is often related to financial reasons, and what one often finds, is getting people to invest financially is a long and often not as rewarding as one would hope. Most investors, end up being people looking to sell their skills or knowledge for a piece of the action, without any risk. Also investors are expecting quite a fast turnaround on their financial investment – and almost guaranteed.

invest rightIn simple terms if 100 businesses seek financial investment, less than 1% will result in a satisfactory investment as most businesses when it gets to the facts are not being realistic.

If however you find your skills lacking then investors are a brilliant idea. Especially if the investor is also prepared to take on the risk of giving their skills and knowledge. But the key here is the investor taking on the risk with you. I have found in this area, that many potential investors don’t even have the skills and experience that you will find that you have, once you get your own information and knowledge clear.

So if you are considering this question – my suggestion is take the journey. It is in the journey that you will gain the wealth. Don’t pay someone to take the journey for you – I have done this and lost 25K – so there is 25K worth of paid experience – it is not worth it. If you want to get someone to take the journey – select people on success fee basis – there are many people prepared to do this. The biggest advantage of taking the journey yourself, is the knowledge, experience and people you will meet on the journey. These people you will quickly sift through as being either greatly useful or a total waste of time. You will work out better options for your business. This may change your course, give alternatives you never considered, or even how to do this yourself, without losing value in your product.

Enjoy your journey!

 

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

R and D Grants – how to make them work for your growth

As a SME who has been successful, employing people and gone through 3 decades of business in Adelaide Australia. I have found there are some really important facts that as a business one has to do.

grant-moneyThe logical items would be planning, cashflow, decisive, keep up sales and marketing, and keep ones eyes open. However there is more that is KEY – that is HOPE.

Adelaide in South Australia is known as the City of Churches, however, here in Adelaide, just by looking around one can see the lack of hope on every street. If one considers even recent history, one can see that countries and leaders have understood and harnessed hope. They have actually worked hard at showing belief in the ideas they promote and displayed belief that these ideas will bring a positive outcome to those who are affected by their decisions.

In fact even in our last State and Federal election our leaders should really do a review of the impact that hope had on the votes they received. People would rather vote for Hope that to continue on a same path if it is not the best. But if no hope is offered, better the devil you know that the devil you don’t.

So what does this all have to do with R and D grants? Simple. We as an IT firm, look and research ideas we are presented with. If the idea proves that a product would have commercial viability and we could produce this in a cost effective time, then we will strongly consider producing that product. This is because this brings us hope.

image from governmentsgrant.org

The HOPE with R and D, is that we could sell the product, it could be a great rise to fame and extra success.

However, as a business owner the problem was cashflow and income. This is where the grant comes in. Getting the grant was the next MAJOR hurdle. I had tried to get grants before, in fact paid people for advice and knowledge, only to find I had lost the money and energy I had invested. My solution was BDO. They worked on the grant with me for a set percentage. This was great. I paid nothing up front. Lost nothing if it did not come through, and they got paid and so did I. A great win/win.

So where has that lead me.

My company Accede is still creating specific boutique databases for businesses. We have also created to date 3 products

We are currently working on 2 fronts. Marketing and Sales. Plus product improvements and new prospective products.

R and D does work. The trick is not only creating the product and getting over problems, but also working out how to take this to the next level and sell or market these products. I hope that soon our government assists SME’s with this next step.

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail