Tag: database

 

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

Are you sure your business data is safe?

Or is it just what you have been told?
Photo of Data backing up to the cloud

If I had a $1000 for each business that told me its data was safe, and then I found out that it was not, I would be able to buy a new house – Truly.

So why is it that your IT person says they have a backup and they can restore a file and it is all fine, and I am telling you here, it is not?  It is because for those of you who use a Database e.g. MS SQL , MYSQL, Dataflex, Oracle etc. these are Multi User databases.

A multiuser database has a unique method of backing up.  Most of these databases create a specific backup file e.g. a BAK file.   These files are created even if someone has the database open and is using the data.  Now here is where things become even more interesting.  Some people have really Old versions of databases, and their Bak Files need to be restored in their own version of the database, which may only work on certain operating systems etc.

So how do you make sure you are safe?

Simply, ask your IT person to do a restore and give you access to your data as it was yesterday.  Check that entries you have made this morning are not there, and that you can access, add and edit your data from yesterday.  Once you have done this – you are then sure that your data is safe.

What if you don’t have time for this idea?

Well, you are running a bit of a risk, but give these instructions to your IT person, and ask them to tell you what invoice ABC which was entered yesterday is for.  If they have the same information that you do, then you know the restoration was a success.  If not, then do not consider that the restoration worked, and get someone involved that does know about this style of database backup to review and check your backups.

What else do you need to watch out for?

UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) are really necessary in Australia as we get such extreme heat, and regular power drop outs or interruptions.  So if you don’t know when you purchased your UPS, or if it is over 2 years old, it is time to get a new UPS.  They are no longer a huge investment, and frankly, if you don’t have laptops, you may want to have a couple of UPS’s so that you can keep your server and a terminal going during a power drop out.  These should really be replaced every about 2 years.

What about how long you could be down if the server is lost?

Cloud backups are great – until you need to get going in a hurry.  I know this personally and only too well. I really suggest you need a mix between local and cloud backup technology.  If you can restore local data and get up and going quickly, then you are only updating the changes that have happened since the last backup, and that means that you are not going to take a week to get your data back.  Getting data down from the cloud is generally faster than Up to the cloud, but even so, it could take days if you have a lot of data – and if that is the case, you can’t afford to wait days to get data back. So having a mix between the two is really necessary.

 

Remember – We only need a backup at the worst time.  Never are backups used when everything is going well – it is only necessary – just when you don’t need it.  So check that if you do need to use it – at least it will work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Why Use MS Access

I am writing about this question, because I would be asked this question hundreds of times in a year. So here are the reasons.

MS Access was a really intelligent product that Microsoft added to its professional office pack. The reason that it is intelligent is really due to what it can do for an office.

Here are business accepted facts:

  1. Data is vital and essential for a business.
  2. Quality Data leads to better decision making information, and hopefully better decision making
  3. Successful business use their data to their advantage.

MS Access is a Data tool shed. I will clarify this by stating what is in MS Access.


Database Tables
. This is actually a very simple part of MS Access. It can create a database structure very simply and easily. Sometimes too easily, as

Instructor with Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Instructor with Students in Computer Lab — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

many people create databases, that actually don’t understand databases or what the client needs now and possibly in the future, it is the lack of understanding that has given MS Access the poor reputation, The database is also only for smaller amounts of data, e.g. 20Mb. However, what is brilliant about this area, is the ability to easily link to larger databases e.g. MS SQL.  This means you have the power, speed and ability of MS SQL, and can link this to a simple tool like MS Access.

Form Generator. The form Generator in Access, is quite a powerful tool. There are automatic form creators, and many standard forms that a person can down load, plus it is really easy to create a form from scratch, with very little training. Normally if writing in another language, a lot of programming time is spent creating the forms and the functions of the form. This is a very GUI based form generator.

Report Generator. There is a report generator included in MS Access. For many products they recommend other report generators e.g. Crystal report writer, or you write all your reports almost from scratch. The report generator is GUI based and very easy to use, with far more flexibility and options that a product that is only a report generator.

Queries. This is the way a user can ask a question of the database without being a programmer. So with its GUI the user can easily ask questions. Queries however can also do many functions, information displaying etc. The queries can also run stored procedures from remote databases. This is really brilliant if you want speed and access to data as well.


Visual-Basic-TutorialProgramming Language.
MS Access uses VBA or Visual Basic as is base programming language. The MS Access product can be compiled, and
there are many off the shelf packages that have been totally written in MS Access that users are not aware of.

So, in answer to the question “Why use MS Access”. The answer is simple, It is a main stream Microsoft product. It has loads of features and the cost is unbelievable. It is free for users to use an application written in MS access, and only the developer of the application needs a licence, that is about $99.00 or included in the Professional pack.

If you are considering a new product, this creates the fastest and cheapest RAD (Rapid Application Development) application to prove and test your theories. So without spending huge funds on a potential idea, MS Access will prove if it will work, and then the chance of success has just increased.

They state the 90% of Database Applications fail.  This is generally because of poor specifications, lack of budget, poor programmers etc. By developing a RAD first, the limitations of a spec are instantly found and can be resolved. Without huge time or money expenses, you can check your idea will work, and you can even run trials from the MS Access version. Plus, you have not only a specification, but also an actual working prototype to base your product on.

The question really should be, Why aren’t more people using MS Access.

 

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

How MYOB Can be an Easy Timesaving Tool

selectExploreSampleCompany.96.RGBMYOB is a great value accounting package. However for most of us, accounting is the way of recording the financial transaction although it really does very little to increase sales.

When selling, we are generally looking at 2 options:

1. Selling more to existing clients.

2. Getting new clients.

Due to this fact, most of us end up double entering data. We keep some combination of accounting software, including a database, excel spread sheets, a website, MYOB and for some of us a freight system. This means we could re-keying the same information up to 4 times.

MYOB recognised this and have timesaving solutions. One solution is that they have MYOB ODBC and MYOB Developers. Accede is one of these developers. In addition to this, they offer add on solutions for businesses. Find out more at both:
1. www.myob.com.au/addons/
2. www.accede.com.au/our-services/myob-database-development-integration/

Star Track Express, also has an automatic interface between databases and MYOB and Star Track. So without even making a call – your freight can be collected.

These timesaving options mean that the following is possible.

WEB ORDERING MODEL

A client enters an order in your web.

You bring this to your local database and import to MYOB when you are ready to invoice and transfer to your freight system when ready. A business who does this, is using this timesaving technique and making headlines in the world of online sales Oz Trampolines, and is based in Geelong – Victoria. Oz Trampolines has been able to use this extra time to give better price options, support, product choice and options. A real leader in Trampoline sales in Australia.

Another option is a CRM MODEL

You Enter your data into your Call Centre area, follow the CRM Progress of your client, transfer the invoice to MYOB when ready to invoice and dispatch with your freight system. This model also allows auto reminders from your database to resell to existing clients. A business offering the CRM solution is Utter Gutters. By using these options, Utter Gutters has established a business that is devoted, with more staff to support consumers, provide installation and frequently update their Q&A, bringing them into a leader position in their market.

WHAT IF I DON’T USE MYOB?

MYOB is popular but not the only financial accounting system. The same options are used in most accounting solutions. What you need to ask your accounting package people is “Do you offer an ODBC import facility?”  It is very rare that this is not an available option today. If the answer is yes, then the above options are available to you – today.

The end result is YES, you can do this with as little as NO data entry or single data entry. Wasting time and money in administration today is really wasted money. Use your company time to give you better results, not to do tasks that can be automated. Your company, by working smarter, not harder can become known for its support, innovation & customer service.

 

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

Have Databases Helped or Hindered Life Balance

database-design-developmentAfter 30 years of writing databases, employing programmers and owning a software company, I question if databases actually help or hinder our lives. Today, data is power. Those who have access to data and can use data information to get an advantage, can take a pivotal position in the choices of their lives.

Using data well could mean working less hours, and using the time for other interests, hobbies or family. It could also mean doing more work and achieving more goals. Using data well can also give a business or company leadership in decision making – because the facts that they can weigh up, are far more accurate.

With the advantages of data control, also comes higher demands. More demands have come from government, consumers, employees and users.

Each of these points, offer both positive and negative aspects – however, the question remains: Has data improved our life balance?

Quality of life has definitely improved in the last 50 years in relation to health, hours of work, workplace environments, and learning. Information and access to information has also brought with it many other issues, divorce, single parenting, depression, stress and a huge line of similar problems.

I believe in the most part that work life balance is actually up to us as individuals. Databases have given us knowledge. This knowledge has both advantages and disadvantages.

I am going to weigh up database information to Santa Claus to help you see my opinion.

Remember as a child, you believed in Father Christmas but, then when you were still fairly young, you were told he was not real. The advantage of believing was that you believed someone watched over you, cared for you, gave your gifts and encouraged you to do your best. Knowing that Father Christmas was not real led you to be more aware of what your parents did and sacrificed for you, and made you responsible for yourself. However at 16, I decided that Santa Claus (St Nicholas Claus) was real and that his spirit still brings Christmas to many people, but that I had to be responsible, and I am thankful that I had loving, supporting parents.

In short – I used my knowledge to make a life choice that would bring me balance. I believe databases give knowledge – the quality of the knowledge is totally dependent on the quality of the data. However what we do with this knowledge really is the answer to life balance. It is our choices that bring life balance, and we can make better choices if we have better databases. However the decision is ours.

 

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