Ben Hatton Slack: An app that takes collaboration to the next level

Effective communication within a company is vital for its long-term success, and we’re no exception at Data Cave. With multiple internal projects going on at any given time, an expansive infrastructure to monitor and maintain, and staff that aren’t always in the same place within the facility, the ability to communicate quickly within the Data Cave team is a very big deal for us and our redundancy levels. Slack logo

Earlier this year we began using Slack for much of our internal communications and notifications on different projects, and it has become a very effective tool for us. Our objective was to find a communication tool that was easy to use, provided a good range of functionality, was mobile-friendly, and stable (finding the right tool that meets all of those requirements is actually pretty tough!). All in all, we have been very happy with it, and if you have been looking to enhance your organization’s internal communication methods, keep reading to hear our thoughts about it!

About Slack

At its core, Slack is an instant messaging communication tool that can be accessed on computers as well as mobile devices. It allows for both private and group messaging, as well as team-wide chats that can be broken down by topic.

Slack interface

The Slack user interface.

Benefits we’ve seen

Over the past several months, our team’s internal communications have been greatly enhanced from using Slack, in a number of different ways:

1) More visibility into projects: Like most companies, our internal communications include a little bit of everything (emails, IM’s, hand-written notes, etc.), but by shifting a decent portion of these communications over to Slack, we’ve found that it’s been much easier for everyone to stay in the loop on all of the data center projects we have going on. The functionality for multiple chat channels has played a big part in this, as well as the ability to easily upload attachments. Overall it has provided a much higher level of visibility and organization for all of our internal projects, which has resulted in them moving forward much more efficiently than they had in the past.

2) Very mobile-friendly: Data Cave is a big facility, with lots of moving parts and things that go on behind the scenes. This effectively guarantees that none of us are going to be glued to our computers all day. This is where Slack’s mobile app comes in; it’s very intuitive and easy to use, offering all of the same major functionality as the web application. Through this we can stay in the loop with what is going on in each channel, regardless of where we are.

3) Third-party integration: Slack is an open platform that integrates with a wide range of  third-party applications. We are able to tie in some of the additional outside applications and services that we use for various activities at Data Cave, and view notifications as well as perform some actions from directly within Slack. To that end, Slack has proven very effective at allowing us to view information (and take action when needed) that is created from multiple outside services, all within one central application. There are a lot of chat and instant messaging services out there, but very few have taken this approach of deep service integration.

Final thoughts

Overall, Slack has had a tremendous impact on how we communicate at Data Cave. Not only has it allowed for better visibility and faster communication on our internal projects, but more importantly it has improved how efficiently these projects get completed. The ability for us to work efficiently as a team is why we are able to grow and stay on top of today’s data center trends, and Slack is one of the tools that helps us to do just that. I would highly recommend Slack for any organization that is looking to enhance its internal communications, and to see the benefits that come out of it!

 

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Ben Hatton Understanding the Impact of Data Center Downtime

Drive to Thrive logo

The Drive to Thrive report looks extensively at the impact that downtime has had on federal data centers around the country. (Image courtesy of MeriTalk)

The top priority for any data center operator is to ensure that downtime never occurs, and in the (hopefully rare) event that it does, to restore availability as quickly as possible. A big thing that plays into this is the ability for the data center to empathize with the people who rely on it, in order that they can truly understand the specific impact downtime can have. Downtime affects more than just the data center’s bottom line; more importantly it affects the operations of customers who have equipment in the data center, and everyone else who relies on those services being available. Having a solid understanding of the impact downtime has is something that will benefit any data center operator.

The ‘Drive to Thrive’ data center report

This is why I found some of the stats from the recent ‘Drive to Thrive’ report from MeriTalk on federal data centers so alarming. This report is based on a survey that was taken of 300 federal IT workers, and it focuses extensively on the level of data center downtime they typically see. Not only did the survey find that downtime is a regular occurrence for the majority of federal IT workers, but federal data center operators appear to have a skewed perception of just how impacting a downtime event can be. You’ll see what I mean shortly. Here are a few of the key findings from the survey:

  1. Over the course of one month, 70% of federal agencies experienced downtime events lasting 30 minutes or more.
  2. These events affected the ability to work for 90% of federal employees.
  3. When asked to assign their data centers a letter grade for how well they perform, 36% of the employees gave a C, stating that they cannot manage downtime well, and that it occurs often.
  4. The most telling stat: From everyone surveyed, only 29% believe that their data center personnel fully understands the impact that downtime has on their ability to work.

These findings certainly show that federal data centers have a problem when it comes to preventing downtime from occurring (the vast majority of downtime was caused by server outages or connectivity failures). However, I believe that a major underlying cause for this occurring in the first place is ultimately a disconnect in how data center operators view the impact of downtime. Having the mindset that even a small amount of downtime won’t have major repercussions, or any other skewed mindset about downtime in general, will mean trouble for you if you run a data center. As data center operators we need to assume that any amount of downtime will have a disastrous impact on the people who rely on us (it does after all, the numbers speak for themselves). Any attitude less than this is a compromise that we can’t (and shouldn’t) make.

Downtime is bad, period.

We realize that our level of uptime at Data Cave impacts much more than our own business and reputation, but more importantly it impacts the success and livelihood of each of our clients, as well as everyone who counts on their services being available. This empathy towards the success of our clients has been a driving factor in our efforts to prevent downtime in all of its forms from occurring. While the government’s data center operators appeared to have a skewed understanding about the effects of downtime, we feel that the serious way that we view it has put us at an advantage, setting a solid foundation for every decision we have made at our data center.

If you would like to learn about some of the other things that set Data Cave apart from other data centers, contact us today!

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Ben Hatton Data Breaches: Prevention and Response go hand in hand

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, an issue that doesn’t just impact us as a data center, but all individuals and companies across the board as well (check out our post from last year on the subject). This is a challenge that is continually evolving, and it was the focus of last month’s TechPoint panel discussion. Bringing together experts in consulting, healthcare, and cybersecurity research, the discussion centered around the changing security landscape, what some of today’s key risks look like, and how businesses and individuals can (and must) adapt to these risks.

TechPoint panel discussion: Cybersecurity-The New Normal

I’m going to look at some of the key points that were discussed by the panel, and how due diligence against data breaches is essential for both companies as well as individuals.

If you haven’t already created a data breach prevention plan, please do so. Right now.

The discussion opened with a few alarming statistics from a recent Ponemon study on data breaches (the report can be accessed here):

  • Over the past year, 43% of companies have experienced a data breach, with 60% of them having experienced multiple breaches in the last 2 years.
  • 67% of business leaders lack a full understanding of how to effectively respond to a breach when one occurs.
  • 62% expressed no confidence in their ability to respond to a breach, and of the respondents who do have a response plan in place, 30% of them stated that it is flat out worthless when responding to a breach.

If these stats make it seem like data breaches are ultimately inevitable for any company regardless of how much they prepare, that’s because they are. The general consensus of the panelists was that if your company hasn’t experienced a breach before, it will. This is largely due to the growing level of sophistication of the hackers responsible for breaches, who have evolved from teenagers with an illegal hobby to full-scale operations that are funded by criminal organizations or, in some cases, governments. Since the threat itself has evolved, the ways we prepare and respond need to evolve as well.

A breach response plan is just as important as a prevention plan.

Due to the increasingly high probability for any company to experience a data breach, the panelists stressed the importance of having an effective breach response plan, in addition to the measures you take to prevent breaches from occurring. To a degree, how companies respond to a data breach can sometimes be even more important than how they  work to prevent them in the first place, due to the fact that breaches are so prevalent. To make matters worse, a breach response plan is something that is often overlooked or neglected altogether by many companies.

“Human beings are not perfect computers.”

While companies can have solid security policies and practices in place, they will not amount to much if their employees aren’t educated about them, or abide by them. Another key point made during the discussion was that “human beings are not perfect computers,” and that as employees and consumers, we all need to become better educated about the specific security risks that we face on a daily basis. This requires effort both on the parts of the employees themselves, and the organizations they work for.

This is somewhat of a paradigm shift from the “traditional” line of thinking, where the burden of security protection is almost always placed solely on companies, and not on the consumer (I touched on this same thing in this Data Privacy post from August). As I wrote about then, and as the panelists discussed at this event, as consumers and responsible employees we need to become educated about both our personal data security as well as the security of our organizations. In reality, companies themselves can only handle so much of the burden of keeping data secure from breaches; it requires education and vigilance on the part of the employee as well.

The threat is continually evolving, so we need to continually adapt.

My final and biggest take-away from the discussion also pretty well summarizes and ties together all of the previous points: Not only will the threat of data breaches always exist, but it will continually evolve with the technology as well as those who can profit from compromising a company’s data. Furthermore, as consumers we continually desire to be more and more connected, and we want to interact digitally more than ever before. These two factors point even further to the huge need for both companies and individuals to be continually learning and adapting to these trends, or risk the consequences. And as the panel closed with, therein lies the real challenge.

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Ben Hatton Client Focus: Bartholomew County, Indiana

At Data Cave we take great pride in creating success stories for our clients, as we partner with them for their disaster recovery and colocation solutions at our data center. While every organization is unique, we are happy to share these stories with you so you can learn from their experience. We recently created a client case study about one of our many great clients: Bartholomew County, Indiana. We are making the case study available as a free download!Bartholomew County Case Study

As a local government IT department, Bartholomew County faced numerous challenges that made their goal of ensuring 100% uptime difficult to fully realize. When a major flood struck in 2008, the need for disaster recovery moved to the forefront, and they began a working partnership with Data Cave.

In this case study you will learn their story:

  • The unique challenges they faced
  • Their key disaster recovery goals
  • How Data Cave  helped them to realize and  achieve those goals

To access the case study download, click the below link and you will be taken to the download page.

 

Bartholomew County Case Study

 

We encourage you to read the study and think about any similar challenges that your business may be facing right now. If their story sounds familiar, then we encourage you to learn from their experience and contact Data Cave to discuss disaster recovery solutions for your business!

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Ben Hatton 3 Keys to Business Continuity Planning

We are excited to release our new “3 Keys to Business Continuity Planning” whitepaper! This whitepaper looks at several different areas that all play a role in putting together a business continuity plan, and it can serve as a good starting point for your continuity efforts. Business Continuity whitepaper cover

Business Continuity planning may involve a high level of complexity, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think. In the whitepaper we break the planning process down into the following 3 areas:

  • How to put together immediate and long-term response plans for different types of risks your business faces.
  • Identifying the needs of your employees, and where they can work from if your main location isn’t usable.
  • Understanding how your data and server colocation factors in to your business continuity plan.

Since Business Continuity is essentially a backup plan against the different types of risks your business faces, it is important to keep these risks in mind during the planning process, as well as your employee and data needs. We hope this whitepaper helps you with your continuity planning!

You can access the whitepaper download page by clicking below:

3 Keys to Business Continuity Planning

 

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