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Archive for January, 2011

Have you seen those calendar stores in the malls at Christmas and end of year time frame? Every year I wait for the calendars to go on sale for 50% off. That practice hasn’t changed for several years. Normally, I get an Italian-themed [big surprise] calendar for my desk – the one with photos of Italy or the Italian Word A Day. Last month I did something different (i.e. change) – I saw the “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” calendar and brought it home. I enjoyed the book when it came out years ago. Nothing monumental, mind you; however, a slight tweak was made in my focus.

Similarly, I had the technology challenge with Constant Contact and needing to create a new template. I had noticed difficulty in editing the content from the previous month’s template and didn’t do anything about it until it was crunch time. Yesterday was crunch time. And today the newsletter is in your Inbox. I was glad that the aging email template “forced my hand” in making a change because this will carry me for at least 12 months.
 
All too often my team and I (and IT consultants across the country) witness first-hand the resistance and hesitation of our clients and individual computer users to make a change. Whether the change is to upgrade their aging hardware (e.g. server, firewall, UPS)  or software (e.g. Office 2003, legacy versions of their line of business application) or even change their internet providers, the UNKNOWN  stops many business owners in their tracks.
 
Believe it or not, sitting down with your IT staff on a regular basis and discussing the business benefits and ramifications (good and challenging) of how you leverage technology is truly important. This is not only a January (new year) discussion that should occur. Your internal or external IT support staff, especially the lead people servicing your business, need to be invited to sit down at the board room table to understand your business better including the challenges the business has now and down the road.
 
OK, enough of my insights on embracing change, even if it’s slightly uncomfortable. Be open to improving your computers, networks and how your business uses them as a tool to achieve current and future goals. For example, if time and therefore money can be saved by making sound improvements, doesn’t that feel good?
 
When was the last time you talked business with your technology staff? Open up your Outlook 2010 (hint, hint) calendar and schedule that meeting.

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Any small business that handles sensitive personal information needs to make sure it’s taking the proper steps to protect that information. Given that “personal information” extends to employee Social Security numbers, customer credit card numbers, and bank account numbers, it’s hard to think of many businesses that don’t have this headache to worry about.

Before you put into place a good data security strategy, you need to get a sense for the lay of the land – namely, where your data is currently stored and who has access to it. This process is called a data security audit. Here’s how to do it:

1.    Track down EVERY DEVICE your data lives on. That means not only workstations and servers, but also external hard drives, thumb drives, personal computers, and paper files.

2.    Check the entrances and exits. How does sensitive data come into your company and how does it go out? Do you collect information from a secure web form? Do merchants mail or fax it in? Are you sending out confidential information in emails?

3.    Follow the trail. If you have an IT person on staff, talk with them about how information moves through your company. Get HR and accounting involved. Find out how employee records and vendors’ bills get from point A to point B.

4.    Identify the players. Find out who has access to what types of information. In addition to employees, are outside vendors or contractors handling sensitive data? It’s no big deal if a temp answering calls at the front desk has access to the file cabinet that holds take-out menus from local restaurants. However, you probably don’t want that person holding the key to the cabinet that holds employee performance reviews.

5.    Classify the information. Some data can be seen by anybody at your company. Some should only be available to parties who need to know. And other types of information – business-critical intellectual property, security passwords, and the like – should be available to a bare minimum of people. 

This all takes a lot of time and footwork. But it’s worth it if you’re going to get serious about protecting your data and making sure your business doesn’t suffer from sloppy security practices in the future. If you need help, CMIT Solutions of Denver can advise you on conducting a thorough data security audit and make recommendations about secure storage, backups, and anti-virus/anti-spyware protection.

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In the introduction of my e-newsletter, I have “Words To Live By”. This month (January 2011) the quote is from one of my all time favorites, Julie Andrews. She wrote “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” Thomas Edison had a vision and he kept trying until it worked. A salesperson is taught that getting a “no” gets him one step closer to getting a “yes.” For the majority of 2010, I used Michelangelo’s quote of “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” These people sure knew what they were talking about!

During my nearly 7 years with CMIT, I have read a lot of different books [and a lot more are still on my shelves] and industry articles and heard some fantastic speakers. One of those whose books I have read (not all of them yet) and heard speak in person was Jeffrey Gitomer. He is into colors and the best one is “Gold” for his Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude.

“Attitude is a choice, and most people select from the negative column. Reason? It’s more natural to blame and defend than it is to admit and take responsibility.”   -Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude

All of us should have new or renewed goals for this very new year and having the right attitude will be a major factor in your success. Determine what must be done, put on your “YES” hat and make it happen.

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