Connection Community https://community.connection.com/ Official Technology Community of Connection Mon, 20 May 2024 15:32:08 +0000 hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.5.3 Meet ChromeOS: Powered for Big Ventures.... https://community.connection.com/meet-chromeos-powered-for-big-ventures-perfect-for-your-business/ May 20, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/2612599-Blog-Google-ChromeOS.jpg

Did you know 91% of small business owners work over 40 hours a week?1 As a business owner, you're constantly seeking ways to increase productivity and cut costs. Meanwhile, your IT team struggles to balance reactive and proactive work, security, and the simplification of operations.

To perform in today’s modern landscape, efficient and intuitive hardware and software are crucial. Gone are the days when advanced device management solutions were only accessible to large enterprises. ChromeOS device management with Chrome Enterprise Upgrade empowers your small business with the built-in business capabilities of ChromeOS. This translates to a secure, manageable, and empowered workforce—all backed by 24/7 IT admin support.

Looking to select the right device for your workers? Here are the top 5 benefits of switching your small business to secure, cloud-first computing with ChromeOS.

1. A Focus on Savings

Small businesses understand the pressure to cut costs. ChromeOS devices deliver up to 65% compared to previous devices, and an estimated $1,700 in savings per device over three years due to time efficiencies and productivity gains.2 You can learn more about simplifying and saving with ChromeOS in this on-demand webinar presented by Google’s Lawrence Lui, a ChromeOS product manager.

2. Effortless Device Management

ChromeOS devices deploy 63% faster than other operating systems2, getting your people up and running quickly. Chrome Enterprise Upgrade unlocks the full potential of ChromeOS devices for your business. Here's how:

  • Zero-touch Enrollment: No more manual setup! Pre-configure devices and ship them directly to employees. They'll be ready to work in just three easy steps upon connecting to Wi-Fi.
  • Seamless Network Access: Employees can instantly connect to your secure business network as soon as they connect to Wi-Fi.
  • Centralized Device Management: Take control with ease. Default Google-recommended policies—and the ability to create custom rules—keep all your ChromeOS devices secure and running smoothly, no matter their location.

ChromeOS is also 36% easier to manage than other operating systems.2 Plus, you get free 24/7 IT admin support with ChromeOS device management through Chrome Enterprise Upgrade.

3. Enterprise-grade Security

Managed ChromeOS devices have 24% fewer security attacks2 and have never had a reported ransomware attack. Ever.* And ChromeOS has 26% faster security updates than competitors.2

ChromeOS is the most secure OS out of the box.3 Built-in security features include automatic updates, sandboxing, and verified boot. ChromeOS device management strengthens these capabilities by allowing administrators to enforce policies like device encryption, application allowlisting, and remote device wiping. It also enables sign-in restrictions and force re-enrollment to ensure data stays secure.

Learn more about working confidently with built-in security here.

4. Work Without Limits

ChromeOS devices deliver 77% higher productivity and faster reboots compared to legacy or other devices.2

Slow and lagging technology is frustrating. ChromeOS devices are agile and flexible—so you can stay productive no matter where you’re working. ChromeOS takes the burden off your IT team and empowers your employees.

The centralized Google Admin console allows for easy management from anywhere, freeing your IT staff from tedious tasks. Automated updates, policy enforcement, and robust security features ensure your devices are always protected, allowing your IT team to focus on what truly matters—supporting your business needs in an efficient and stress-free way.

5. Scale Your Business with Confidence

As your business thrives and reaches new milestones, taking the next step can feel daunting. But what if your technology could seamlessly adapt and grow alongside you?

ChromeOS is built with scalability in mind. Its adaptable features empower your business to handle whatever comes next. Adding new employees or expanding to new locations? No problem. IT teams can effortlessly integrate new devices into the Google Admin console without significant time or resource investment. Get the full picture of Google’s business solutions here.

Learn more about ChromeOS or contact your Connection Account Team to discuss making the right move for your small business.

1. OneDeck, “Small Business Trends: 58% Of Small Business Owners “Very Concerned” About the Economy” April, 20231
2. IDC Business Value Paper, sponsored by Google, The Business Value of ChromeOS, doc #49920522, March 2023
3. Atredis - Google ChromeOS Competitive Analysis - v1.0

* As of 2024 there has been no evidence of any documented, successful virus attack or ransomware attack on ChromeOS. Data based on ChromeOS monitoring of various national and internal databases.

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Celebrating Winners of the 2024 Women of the... https://community.connection.com/celebrating-winners-of-the-2024-women-of-the-channel-awards/ May 17, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/2604981-CRN-2024-WOTC-BLOG.png

As one of the greatest drivers of innovation, the IT industry is responsible for bringing incredible benefits to the way we live, work, and play. From revolutionary new technologies and products to entirely new ways of collaborating and connecting with others, IT delivers change on a grand scale. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate fresh ideas and different perspectives in the industry—greater inclusion helps build on the momentum we’ve achieved and ensure everyone’s needs are heard and represented. CRN’s Women of the Channel Awards showcases those perspectives and experiences, honoring the women who demonstrate exceptional channel leadership, strategic vision, and advocacy. The entire team at Connection is proud to announce that several of our outstanding coworkers have been recognized on CRN's prestigious Women of the Channel Power 100 Solution Provider list and Women of the Channel list for 2024.

Women of the Channel Power 100 Solution Provider

  • Anna Philbrick
  • Lisa Trisciani

Women of the Channel

  • Roxanne Haayer
  • Meghan Haley
  • Jennifer Johnson
  • Kelly Kempf
  • Karen Moriarty
  • Dana Sherry
  • Katie Springs
  • Rebecca Zsolnay

This recognition is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and impact in our organization and the broader tech community. Connection is proud to support our employees with robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts as part of our Connection Cares program. We are deeply committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where all employees have the opportunity to thrive. Congratulations to all winners of the 2024 Women of the Channel Awards for your well-deserved honor. From the entire team at Connection, we wish you the best as you continue to share your experiences and deliver exciting innovations that move our industry forward!

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Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and... https://community.connection.com/federal-health-it-strategic-plan-and-third-party-risk-management/ May 14, 2024 Jennifer Johnson https://community.connection.com/author/jennifer-johnson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/2608538-Health-Public-Policy-BLOG.png

On March 27, 2024, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released the 2024-2030 Federal IT Strategic Plan which is in draft for public comment.

The four goals of the 2024-2030 plan are:

  • Promote Health and Wellness
  • Enhance the Delivery and Experience of Care
  • Accelerate Research and Innovation
  • Connect the Health System with Health Data

In this first of a four-part series, I’ll explore each of these goals, the objectives that will drive the attainment, and highlight some of the strategies for advancing these goals while connecting the strategies to ways that Connection helps our clients.

Why Is the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan Important to Health IT?

The plan is important because it guides federal government efforts, helps constituents understand how their tax dollars are being spent, and emphasizes health equity in all aspects of health IT and electronic health information (EHI). More than 25 federal government organizations will use the plan to prioritize resources, align and coordinate efforts, benchmark and assess progress, and most importantly, amplify health IT priorities to the industry.

This plan builds upon significant progress made in prior plans, including common standards such as UCDI and HL7 FHIR—which allows the electronic capture and exchange of clinical data with an increased emphasis in areas such as health equity, public health, and artificial intelligence.

Goal 1: Promote Health and Wellness

Objectives:

  • Individuals are empowered to manage their health.
  • Individuals and populations experience modern and equitable healthcare.
  • Communities are healthier and safer.

The strategies to help individuals manage their health include using EHI securely, privately, and without special effort so that they can engage with their own health information. Another strategy is to improve the security and portability of EHI through APIs and other interoperable health IT so that individuals can easily use their EHI across various technology platforms. It’s important to help protect an individual’s right to share EHI with third-party applications safely, privately, and securely by protecting EHI in circumstances where HIPAA rules are not applicable.

Though the specific language in the strategic plan around the use of EHI is aimed at individuals managing their own health information, often—through the use of smartphones and wearable technology—it underscores the importance of understanding the risk of putting personal health information into third-party applications.

Healthcare provider organizations rely heavily on third-party applications in all facets of care delivery. Within a healthcare provider organization, third-party risk monitoring ensures all business partners are compliant to that provider organization’s standards and risk tolerance. 62% of cybersecurity threats originate from within the third-party ecosystem. Traditional assessment methods, such as questionnaires, risk scoring services, and periodic audits are not only time-consuming, they also fall short in providing comprehensive, real-time insights into third-party risks.

To address the pressing issue of third-party cybersecurity risk, Connection offers a different approach that efficiently collects and analyzes critical risk assessment data and eliminates manual inefficiencies. We aggregate risk assessment results and present a comprehensive and current view of third-party risks.

An aggregated risk score for each third-party partner offers healthcare IT professionals the opportunity to prioritize actions based on risk levels, enabling them to take timely, well-informed measures to bolster their cybersecurity defenses. Connection’s proactive risk management approach equips you with the tools needed to protect sensitive data and maintain the trust of your patients and their families. If you’d like to learn more about how Connection can help your organization effectively control third-party risk, engage our Healthcare Practice today to get started.

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Connection’s Copilot for Microsoft 365... https://community.connection.com/connections-copilot-for-microsoft-365-workshop/ May 07, 2024 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/2598276-Copilot-Workshop-Blog.jpg

Connection is now offering a comprehensive Copilot for Microsoft 365 Workshop. This enables organizations to harness the potential of AI while also making sure they are prepared for the meticulous planning that comes along with such an endeavor. This workshop follows a three-phase structure, leading you through the essential stages of evaluating your needs, determining key Copilot applications, and developing a feasible plan of action. Additionally, it delivers valuable insights into your organization's preparedness and pinpoints areas for improvement through tailored services. These services concentrate on bolstering your data infrastructure, refining accessibility, and strengthening security protocols.

So, what exactly does the workshop entail and what—if you are interested—preparations can you take to ensure success? I sat down with David Carey, Field Solution Architect at Connection, to address these and many more questions regarding Connection’s Copilot for Microsoft 365 Workshop.

Q: What is the workshop? Can you provide some details on what is covered, the length of the workshop, and its logistics?

A: The workshop is about a 6-hour engagement and consists of three phases.

  • First we have the Assess phase, where we discuss the objectives, scope, and other details of the workshop. We also assess the customer’s readiness to adopt Copilot for Microsoft 365.
  • Next, we have the Art of the Possible phase. In this phase, we showcase the capabilities of Copilot for Microsoft 365 in the form of demonstrations.
  • Lastly, the Build the Plan phase entails interactive sessions where we work with the customer to identify use cases and develop a plan and timeline to prioritize and implement those use cases

Q: Does a customer need to meet any prerequisites to attend the workshop?

A: The customer does have to meet some qualifications to be eligible for the workshop. They must have a minimum of 250 Microsoft 365 users—these can be Microsoft 365 and / or Outlook 365 licensed users. They also need to be currently purchasing their Microsoft 365 licensing from Connection. And they must be using Entra ID—formerly known as Azure AD. Hybrid or Entra ID only is fine.

They also must be willing to invest six hours into the engagement with any necessary key business stakeholders—if needed. This last part is key because the workshop relies on interaction from users of the technology as well as their leadership.

Q: What can a customer expect?

A: The customer can expect the workshop to take a minimum of 3-4 days—depending on the customer’s stakeholder availability to attend the sessions. The sessions can be very interactive, so open, two-way conversation between the customer and the Connection team throughout the workshop is highly encouraged.

Q: What level of AI and / or Microsoft knowledge does a customer need to attend this workshop?

A: No specific AI knowledge is required for the workshop. However, regarding Microsoft, the customer should have stakeholders attend that are knowledgeable about their current Microsoft 365 applications as well as the technical / administrative side of Microsoft 365.

Q: How can the customer prepare for the workshop? Individually and within their organization.

A: One way that the customer can prepare for the workshop is by working with their internal business-facing teams to identify potential use cases for Copilot for Microsoft 365—as well as identifying stakeholders that align to those use cases. Another way to prepare would be to review their current data governance / security posture and be prepared to talk about their ongoing efforts and the tools being used in that space.

Q: What are the outcomes of the workshop?

A: The customer will walk away from the workshop with:

An understanding of what is possible with Copilot for Microsoft 365

  • Technical guidance on improving their infrastructure to support the use of Copilot for Microsoft 365
  • An actionable, high-level plan to implement Copilot for Microsoft 365 for their identified use cases
  • Support from the Connection team for any aspect of the plan—including, but not limited to, licensing and / or professional services

Q: If a customer is interested in attending the workshop, how can they sign up?

A: If the customer is interested in attending the workshop, they should start by contacting their Account Manager. The Account Manager can engage the correct resources for the workshop by submitting a “Microsoft Licensing” request in Xcelerate.

In addition, David hosted a webinar briefing on the workshop that you can find on-demand here
Copilot Microsoft 365 Workshop Please reach out to your Connection Account Team for more details or to schedule a Copilot for Microsoft 365 Workshop today



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Microsoft’s Teams Unbundling: What’s the... https://community.connection.com/microsofts-teams-unbundling-whats-the-impact-on-your-organization/ May 02, 2024 Casey Lindsay https://community.connection.com/author/casey-lindsay/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/2603048-Microsoft-Teams-Unbundling-BLOG.jpg

It’s that time of the year again…spring has sprung, the flowers are in full bloom, the grass is growing fast, it’s such a rebirth of life—and with that comes another unprecedented Microsoft announcement: the “unbundling” of Teams from Office and Microsoft 365 suites. Change is constant in the Microsoft world, but this change is profound. Let’s dig in and start with the why.

There are three main reasons Microsoft has made this change:

  1. Antitrust Investigation: Microsoft is making these unbundling moves with an aim to head off European antitrust regulators that are in the process of investigating the impact of bundling Microsoft Teams with other Microsoft products. Microsoft unbundled Teams from Office 365 across Europe and Switzerland in 2023, and this move expands this unbundling globally.
  2. Anticompetitive Landscape: Competitors like Salesforce’s Slack have argued that Microsoft’s practices were a form of monopolistic self-dealing, i.e. customers were left with no choice but to go “all in” on the Microsoft stack, which included the obvious Teams deployment for unified communications (UC).
  3. Overarching “Pricing Change”: Using Connection’s CSP pricing that is published on our website, historically, Microsoft 365 E3 with Teams bundled came at a price point of $32.84 per user per month. Today, Microsoft 365 E3 (without Teams) is $30.84, and Microsoft Teams Enterprise is $4.84 for a grand total of $35.68 per user per month. That’s an 8% increase to end up with the same product mix as before!

Now let’s pivot from the “why” and help to distill these changes down to how they will affect you, the Microsoft customer. As with any Microsoft rules, there are always nuances, and I will keep my commentary high-level for ease of interpretation and to help reduce heartburn.

First and most important, if you are an existing subscriber of Microsoft 365 E3/E5 or Office 365 E1/E3/E5 with Teams included, rest assured; you can continue to purchase your existing suites that include Teams. You will be able to upgrade these existing subscriptions to a higher version with Teams. You will even be able to renew these suites with Teams into a new agreement with one caveat: you cannot renew from EA to CSP, as Microsoft considers this a “new” subscription. But you can do to the opposite and renew these suites with Teams from a CSP to an EA. There is one last unique customer circumstance to mention: for customers in the middle of a CSP partner change, Microsoft has offered a grace period until June 30, 2024, to get any new subscriptions for Office 365 and Microsoft 365 procured with Teams included.  

The bottom line is any “net new” Office 365 or Microsoft 365 purchase (meaning you don’t currently own an active subscription of the suite) on an EA or CSP must be purchased as two separate SKUs: Office 365/Microsoft 365 without Teams + the Teams Enterprise SKU if you desire to use Teams.

For those customers using another solution for UC like Webex, Zoom, or Slack, this does bring some sunshine in the way of savings. You’ll end up saving between $1.75–$2.25 per user, per month without Teams. But I would also argue a point where that savings could bring diminishing returns. For instance, let’s say a company is using a competitor to Teams but has Teams deployment on their roadmap, even if it’s remote. It would be vital to dig in and compare the financials to unbundle now and forecast long-term costs to stack the two SKUs down the road. Projecting that breakeven point is necessary to determine if your long-term costs could outweigh your immediate savings. This is probably a good time to let you know that this kind of forecasting fits squarely into my team’s wheelhouse: Connection’s Microsoft Landscape Optimization (MLO) service!

There are a few Microsoft suites that will remain unchanged, meaning Teams will remain available to be bundled (but will also include an option to unbundle). This includes all Frontline SKUs: Microsoft 365 F1 and F3 plus Office 365 F3 (existing customers only). Additionally, Microsoft 365 Business Suites will also remain with an option to include Teams bundled.

There are certainly a lot of rabbit holes you can venture down under each customer's circumstance when researching your best option. I would lean on Connection to be your guide through this big announcement. I do believe that Microsoft is making this move to provide customers with more flexible options for collaboration. I also think this is part of an overall strategy to position Teams as a standalone product to compete more effectively with other tools in this space. However, I’ll leave you with a final thought on this topic—and this is just my own opinion—I think this move is more about Microsoft staying ahead of (the potential for) legal scrutiny than it is about offering their customers an option to save money or more flexibility in choosing a collaboration tool.

Ready to figure out your next steps for your Microsoft licensing situation? Contact us today.

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Journey to the Fourth Industrial Revolution:... https://community.connection.com/journey-to-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-harnessing-ais-potential/ Apr 25, 2024 Robert McIntosh https://community.connection.com/author/robert-mcintosh/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/2595099-FourthIndustrialRevolution-BLOG.jpg

In the last 250 years we have witnessed unparalleled acceleration in technological advancements, with each era marked by transformative industrial revolutions that were powered by groundbreaking innovations. Each marked revolution created a paradigm shift that redirected and forever changed the course of humanity. Each step built upon and transitioned to the next, causing significant shifts in economic structures, cultural norms, and global dynamics.

“Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention and the first wave of nuclear power. And this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be part of it—we mean to lead it.” –John F. Kennedy

As we begin speaking to the inflection point of AI and what experts are considering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, let us look back at how we got here.

Industrial revolutions as defined by their driving force:

  1. STEAM: The First Industrial Revolution, 1760–1840 (Industry 1.0)
  2. ELECTRICITY: The Second Industrial Revolution, 1870–1914 (Industry 2.0)
  3. ELECTRONICS AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY: The Third Industrial Revolution, 1969–2000 (Industry 3.0)
  4. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: The Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2023 (Industry 4.0) 

Dates retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDTvCO5ifKo

Industry 1.0 – Powered by Steam

The First Industrial Revolution, with its start in Britain in the mid to late 18th century, following the “proto-industrialization” period and continuing to the early to mid-19th century, saw the harnessing of steam power, leading to mechanization and automation. Steam engines fueled productivity, revolutionizing textile manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and urbanization—laying the foundation for industrial capitalism. This transition from an agrarian society to an industrialized one provided the first true transformation.

James Watt emerged as one of the greatest inventors of the time, as his steam engine left its mark on various industries from agriculture, mining, textiles, transportation, manufacturing, and more. We saw textile machinery, such as the spinning jenny and power loom, emerge, leading to increased speed, accuracy, and scale in production and allowing more accomplishments in less time.

The first revolution also saw the rise of the telegraph, mechanized agriculture, the factory system, and the mass migration from rural America to cities, as people searched for employment opportunities in factories and mills. This population shift defined the urban landscape.

Industry 2.0 – Humanity Goes Electric

The Second Industrial Revolution, fueled by electricity and mass production techniques in the mid to late 19th and early 20th century, electrified factories, facilitated mass production, and standardized products, catalyzing globalization and the rise of multinational corporations. The widespread adoption of electricity as a power source changed everything. Imagine which technologies would not exist without electrical power.

1879 saw the development of Edison’s incandescent light bulb and his systematic approach to power distribution systems that allowed for electricity in homes, on streets and in factories. What steam did in the 18th century, electricity amplified in the 19th century. Karl Benz gave us the internal combustion engine at this time, as well as creation of the first “practical” automobile in 1885—giving rise to the likes of Ford and Mercedes-Benz. Ford’s invention of the assembly line carved a pathway to the future, propelling manufacturing to unprecedented heights.

The steel industry concurrently went through a notable change, with one main invention by Henry Bessemer in 1856 called, oddly enough, the Bessemer converter. In a process known as again, oddly enough, the Bessemer process, it allowed the production of steel from molten pig iron by blowing air through the iron to remove impurities. This reduced costs and time required to produce steel, making it more affordable and allowing for rapid industrialization.

Andrew Carnegie built his empire on this process and brought us into the modern world of skyscrapers, bridges, railways, ships, automobiles, etc.

Keep in mind other notable mentions during this time included the telephone, sewing machine, radio, dynamite, refrigerated railroad car, motion picture camera, phonograph, and typewriter—just to mention a few.

Research contribution: 8 Groundbreaking Inventions from the Second Industrial Revolution | HISTORY

Industry 3.0 – It’s All Digital

The Third Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution of the latter half of the 20th century, was propelled by computing advancements and the adoption of the Internet. This era transformed commerce and exploded the digital economy through e-commerce and social media, as well as the creation of new industries like software and IT.

The Space Age kicked off the revolution, and nuclear energy played a part as another untapped energy source. The rise of telecommunications, computers, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), along with robots, ushered in a new age of automation.

The Internet hit inflection, now connecting the world like never before, coupled with automation soaring to new heights. In 1975, Ed Roberts gave us the Altair 8800, considered the first PC and sold as a build your own with an Intel 8080 processor. Altair began the democratization of computing and blew open the doors to an industry that never looked back. Consider just six years earlier, large entities and governments dominated computing. The Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon with the “supercomputer” of the day that, in today’s standards, had the power of a Commodore 64.

Many Millennials and Gen Zers have never known a world prior to the personal computer, Internet, mobile phones, digital cameras, email, ecommerce, GPS systems, or Wi-Fi. Gen Z is considered the first truly “digital native” generation in a ubiquitous digital world.

Cloud computing, blockchain technology, 3D printing, advanced robotics, crowdsourcing, HTML, the IoT, and AI got their roots during this time—setting us up for what is ahead.

Research contribution: https://www.machinedesign.com/community/guest-commentary/article/21833596/6-major-technologies-bringing-the-third-industrial-revolution

Industry 4.0 – AI Comes to the Fore

Now, standing on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we witness the convergence of digital and physical technologies with artificial intelligence (AI). AI, stemming from machine learning and cognitive computing, promises to revolutionize sectors like healthcare, transportation, finance, manufacturing, defense, and education—augmenting human intelligence with autonomous learning and decision-making abilities.

This flashpoint builds on all the industrial revolutions preceding, yet utilizes the same spirit and ingenuity that drove Watt, Edison, Bessemer, and Bell. New visionary Geoffrey Hinton, “the Godfather of Deep Learning,” has spearheaded the development of deep learning algorithms and neural networks, which in turn has advanced image recognition and natural language processing. Jeff Dean’s contributions to machine learning and work done on Google’s TensorFlow have propelled him to a top computer scientist and Google architect of their open-source machine learning platform.

Augmented reality, virtual reality, and immersive digital experiences have energized the creative juices of the gaming, entertainment, education, and simulation world. The possibilities are mind-blowing, as we see the rise of Oculus, Vive, Valve, and the latest disruptor of all in that space, the Apple Vision Pro.

Unleashing AI’s potential comes with a learning curve. It is our duty as stewards of this new technological breakthrough to address ethical concerns, privacy issues, and algorithmic bias as well as to help upskill workers and attenuate job displacement. The goal is ensuring AI is a positive factor that enhances society and helps foster human potential. We cannot let fear of the unknown halt advancements or bow to the prognosticators of doom that wish to stop the momentum; however, responsible AI must be at the forefront. The problem of the day is not necessarily the data but how the data is governed, integrated, and managed. Training data must be scrutinized at an elevated level, and AI models should be developed to prevent inadvertent discriminatory outcomes.

The industrial revolutions are a showcase of our innovations, resiliency, and adaptability to technological change. As we take this journey together, let us learn from the past and utilize AI's transformative power to create a better world of sustainability, responsible economic growth that benefits all, and a pathway to righting past wrongs and using natural resources and human ingenuity to provide equity for the masses. The framework and outcome from past revolutions have set the stage for our fourth—but certainly not last—industrial disruption. Interestingly, as the first industrial revolution caused urbanization, the rise of the fourth revolution is beginning to see a shift back to rural America, as those who love the countryside can once again work from where they enjoy living.

Reference research: Fourth Industrial Revolution - Wikipedia

Industry 5.0 – What’s Next?

To conclude, let’s envision the Fifth Industrial Revolution. Some foresee it as a collaborative endeavor, blending the remarkable programming capabilities of machines with the unparalleled problem-solving skills, creativity, social intelligence, and critical thinking of humans. Stay tuned! Our own Helix Center for Applied AI and Robotics is playing a key role in this 4th revolution—visit us online to learn more.

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Microsoft Copilot for Security: A Beneficial... https://community.connection.com/microsoft-copilot-for-security-a-beneficial-tool-for-users-of-all-skill-levels/ Apr 18, 2024 John Ryan https://community.connection.com/author/john-ryan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/2582451-Microsoft-Copilot-for-Security-BLOG.jpg

As a user and consumer of technology rather than a technology creator or a developer, I got curious about how I may personally benefit from the myriad of new Microsoft AI Copilots that are launching. I find myself most intrigued by the Copilot for Security service for its purported ease of use for IT security professionals at every level of their career journey and their related skillsets. Also, I endeavored to use Copilot in Bing to help create my first official AI-enhanced blog, as follows.

Microsoft Copilot for Security is a generative-AI powered security solution built to help security professionals build their skills and efficiencies at a much faster rate than learning on their own with more traditional methods.

Copilot for Security is designed with the same interface we are familiar with in the Edge browser’s Bing Chat, and the automation in the background is continuously monitoring and processing prompts that are received from the various Microsoft and or third-party security tool services that the end user has integrated. This AI-powered tool is not just a step forward in security—it’s a leap towards a future where cybersecurity is accessible, understandable, and manageable for everyone.

Embracing Security with Microsoft Copilot: A Tool for All

In the digital age, security is paramount. As cyber threats evolve, so must our defenses. Microsoft Copilot stands at the forefront of this evolution, offering robust security features that cater to users of all abilities. Let’s explore the benefits of Microsoft Copilot for security and its accessibility to users with diverse needs.

A Secure Digital Assistant

Microsoft Copilot is designed with security at its core. It employs advanced algorithms and machine learning to detect and prevent unauthorized access to your data. Here’s how it ensures your digital safety:

  • Data Encryption: Copilot encrypts your data both in transit and at rest, ensuring that sensitive information is protected from prying eyes. This encryption is akin to a vault, where your data is locked away securely, accessible only to those with the right key.
  • Continuous Monitoring: The system continuously monitors for suspicious activity. If an anomaly is detected, Copilot takes immediate action to mitigate potential threats, much like a vigilant sentinel guarding a fortress.
  • Regular Updates: Security is not a one-time setup but a continuous process. Copilot receives regular updates to stay ahead of the latest cyber threats, ensuring that your digital environment remains fortified against new vulnerabilities.

Accessibility: Empowering Every User

Microsoft Copilot is not just secure; it is also incredibly accessible. It breaks down barriers, allowing individuals of all abilities to benefit from its features, such as:

  • Intuitive Interface: The interface is intuitive, making it easy for users with varying levels of tech-savviness to navigate. Whether you’re a seasoned IT professional or a novice, Copilot guides you through its functionalities with ease.
  • Assistive Technologies: For users with disabilities, Copilot integrates with assistive technologies such as screen readers and voice recognition software. This integration ensures that everyone can use the tool effectively, regardless of physical limitations.
  • Multilingual Support: Language should not be a barrier to security. Copilot offers multilingual support, catering to a global audience. It understands and communicates in multiple languages, ensuring that users around the world can interact with it in their native tongue.

The Copilot Advantage

Here are real-world scenarios where Microsoft Copilot shines:

  • Small Business Owners: For small business owners, security is crucial but often overlooked due to resource constraints. Copilot acts as an affordable, virtual security team, protecting their digital assets without the need for significant investment.
  • Educators and Students: In educational settings, Copilot helps maintain the integrity of academic work by safeguarding research data and intellectual property. It also provides a safe platform for students to explore and learn.
  • Individuals with Disabilities: For individuals with disabilities, Copilot’s compatibility with assistive technologies means they can enjoy the same level of security and functionality as any other user, promoting inclusivity and equality.
  • Non-native English Speakers: Copilot’s multilingual capabilities ensure that non-native English speakers are not left behind in the digital security landscape. It empowers them to protect their online presence effectively.

Microsoft Copilot is more than just a digital security assistant; it’s a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to security and accessibility. It provides a safe, user-friendly platform that caters to the needs of a diverse user base. In a world where digital threats are ever-present, Copilot stands as a beacon of security, shining a light on the path to a safer digital future for all.

Microsoft began offering Copilot for Security on April 1, 2024 via Azure with pay-as-you-go pricing (based on consumption) billed monthly. Security Copilot will be widely accessible to organizations of all scopes, no matter what phase they are in, with regard to shoring up their security posture today and in the future.

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IT Superhero Awards Goes Above and Beyond https://community.connection.com/it-superhero-awards-goes-above-and-beyond/ Apr 16, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/2546249-ITSA-2024-ConnectionCares-Blog.jpg

At Connection, we believe in celebrating the unsung heroes of IT who go above and beyond to keep their teams supported, productive, and secure. This year, we are taking our IT Superhero Awards to new heights by not only recognizing the unsung heroes of IT but also giving them the chance to give back to the community.

In its 4th year, the IT Superhero Awards continue to recognize excellence in IT professionals across five categories:

  • Best Team Leader—Leads to success, inspires others to greatness
  • Best Rookie—A fresh IT pro who performs like a seasoned pro
  • Best Catch—Made an amazing save, big or small, that averted disaster
  • Best Superpower—Capable of performing astonishing feats, no matter the deadline
  • Most Unshakeable—Always calm, patient, and focused in the face of IT chaos

These awards honor individuals who excel in guiding teams, making crucial saves, displaying exceptional skills, and maintaining composure under pressure. The grand prize winner, chosen from the five category winners, is crowned the Ultimate IT Superhero.

Our team understands the importance of giving back—which is why we are excited to announce the winners of the 2024 IT Superheroes Awards will have the opportunity to support an amazing group of non-profit organizations. On behalf of our winners, Connection will donate a total of $9,000 to organizations that closely align with our Connection Cares initiatives and company values.

We have carefully selected three non-profits to participate in this year’s IT Superhero Awards—Feeding America, NPower, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)—because they share our commitment to making a positive impact in our communities. Feeding America’s mission to fight hunger and food insecurity resonates deeply with us. Connection Cares has collaborated with Feeding America and similar organizations in the past, organizing food drives and donations to support those in need. NPower holds a special significance for many at Connection, due to their contributions to the veteran community. As a Gold NH Veteran-Friendly Business, Connection is proud to work alongside NPower to support veterans and their transition into civilian life. NCWIT’s efforts to increase the representation of women in technology are incredibly important to our entire team—for the supportive work environment and culture we are proud to have built today to the skills and resources we are investing in for future generations. We believe in fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry to drive innovation, and supporting NCWIT’s mission aligns perfectly with our commitment to gender equality and empowerment in the workplace.

Nominations for the 2024 IT Superhero Awards are now open, and we encourage you to nominate the IT professionals in your organization who go above and beyond every day. Winners and the non-profit organization they choose to donate to will be announced at our Technology Summit in Boston, MA on September 12, 2024. Be sure to submit your nomination before June 28, 2024 to recognize deserving IT Superheroes and help support Feeding America, NPower, and NCWIT!

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How to Create a Modern Engineering Workstation https://community.connection.com/how-to-create-a-modern-engineering-workstation/ Apr 16, 2024 James Rust https://community.connection.com/author/james-rust/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/2570659-Modern-Engineering-Worksation-BLOG.jpg

Imagine this: You’re an engineer leading a plant expansion project. You’re buzzing with ideas, eager to translate them into reality using AutoCAD. But with every click, your computer grinds to a halt for a frustrating three seconds. That creative spark starts to dim.

This isn’t a hypothetical scenario—it was my life for far too long. It may not sound like much, but those three seconds added up quickly. Working on the design was a slow and tedious task when it should have been something I enjoyed. What engineer doesn’t love figuring out how to make all the pieces fit and work for everyone? What engineer doesn’t love the job they spent years training for?

The answer: the engineer who doesn’t have the right tools to get their work done. Don't let outdated technology hold your engineers back. Give them the tools to unleash their creativity and bring groundbreaking designs to life.

Powerful Workstations Fuel Engineering Success

When selecting an engineering workstation, several considerations are involved, but ultimately, the goal is to have a device that helps rather than hinders the creative process. Engineers need something that can process the most demanding design and rendering jobs—but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a machine that’s at the absolute cutting edge of technology. If you’re in procurement or IT, ask yourself the following: does the workstation you’re providing to a highly paid, well trained, and in-demand engineer meet their needs, maximize their productivity, and get the best ROI for your organization?

The modern workstation needs a vast amount of parallel processing power to support computer aided design (CAD), computer aided engineering (CAE), and simulation programs. Design software evolves so rapidly these days that it’s often best to get more than the minimum requirements for processing power to ensure the workstation remains reliable for years to come. Design suites have even begun adding generative AI capabilities into their software, and these features will only grow over time.

Another consideration is networking speed. Often designs are being worked on or reviewed live in tandem with engineers who may not be onsite, and depending on the file size of the model, this may end up being a bottleneck. Files also need to be properly backed up to ensure no design time is lost. Without the proper network infrastructure in place, even the best workstation hardware will slow to a crawl.

GPUs Can Make the Difference

Many engineering tools now require additional processing performance and capabilities that only GPUs can provide. CPUs are still essential, but the GPU can do the heavy lifting that is just too much for CPUs. The right GPU futureproofs engineering workstations by letting them accommodate growing and ongoing engineering trends, especially considering their usage in AI and machine learning.

A high performance GPU can allow an engineer to get more done in a much smaller timeframe when compared to engineers with inadequate tools. By accelerating powerful technologies like rendering, interactive CAE, and generative design, GPUs are revolutionizing how engineers bring products to market faster. These GPU-powered tools empower engineers to experiment with novel manufacturing techniques, unlocking a new era of innovative designs packed with exciting features.

Invest in Technology and Empower Your Employees

A survey in 2022 found that a whopping nine out of ten employees are frustrated by their workplace technology. People will always do their best work when they have the proper tools, and engineers are no exception. Keep in mind that these days we are still dealing with an engineering skillset shortage, and making technology boosting rather than limiting can have a remarkable effect on productivity. The issue is that navigating the ever-changing tech landscape can be daunting.

Knowing what you need is difficult when technology is moving so fast and you’re busy doing your part to get product out the door. Instead of looking yourself, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice. We stay up to date with the latest hardware and software and can recommend the right products to fit your performance and budgetary needs.

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Microsoft 365 E3 or E5: What Is the Right... https://community.connection.com/microsoft-365-e3-or-e5-what-is-the-right-plan-for-your-organization/ Apr 11, 2024 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/2568772-Microsoft-365.-E3-or-E5-what-is-the-Right-Plan-BLOG.png

In the realm of productivity software, Microsoft 365 maintains its position as the leading business solution with over 1 million companies worldwide utilizing this cloud-based suite of applications.

However, Microsoft provides various types of 365 plans—each tailored to offer distinct benefits that adapt to evolving business requirements. Determining the correct Microsoft plan for your organization can be a daunting endeavor. The correct plan can affect the overall productivity, efficiency, and security—so making the correct choice is crucial to your business. Among the most popular subscription options are Microsoft 365 E3 and E5. While both offer productivity advantages, E5 boasts a more comprehensive feature set.

E3 and E5 Feature Breakdown

Both E3 and E5 provide access to an essential suite of productivity apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, and Teams. These apps simplify collaboration amongst employees regardless of their location, creating seamless efficiency and productivity whether your users are in-office, hybrid, or remote. Both plans also offer SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange, ensuring smooth file sharing, storage, and email administration.

Security and Compliance

Security is a primary concern for any organization, and this is where E5 truly outshines E3 licensing. E3 includes fundamental security features—such as multifactor authentication (MFA) and data loss prevention—but E5 takes it up a notch by also providing advanced threat protection, intelligent security management, and supplementary compliance features like customer lockbox, privileged access management, and advanced eDiscovery. Microsoft's security and compliance solutions evolve continuously to combat emerging threats, rendering E5 an optimal selection for organizations with heightened security requirements.  

Advanced Analytics and AI

Another big factor in today’s business world is access to analytics and the latest in AI technology. Microsoft 365 E5 offers both analytical capabilities and AI tools that are absent from the E3 package. Power BI Pro, a dynamic data visualization tool, empowers your staff to derive insights for data-informed decision-making. E5 also delivers sophisticated AI functionalities, including MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics, providing valuable insights into productivity and collaboration patterns throughout your organization. Leveraging these capabilities can optimize your team's efficiency and optimize performance.

Pricing Breakdown

A big factor in making your final decision is understanding the differences in pricing structure between Microsoft 365 E3 and E5. Microsoft 365 E3 costs $36 per user/month, while Microsoft 365 E5 comes in at $57 per user/month. While it does seem like a big jump, the inclusion of additional security, compliance, analytics, and AI features may justify the investment for your organization. 

It's also possible to customize Microsoft 365 licenses within your organization to suit your requirements. This flexibility enables you to allocate a suitable plan to users depending on their individual needs and responsibilities, ensuring that you only invest in the features necessary for each user. This strategy can prove cost-efficient since you have the option to provide advanced features available in the E5 plan to users who require them, while assigning the more economical E3 plan to others who may not need all the additional functionalities of the E5 plan. Connection’s Microsoft Landscape Optimization (MLO) assessment allows you to gain insight into your current IT environment through a series of workshops, helping you determine the correct and most cost-effective licensing for your organization.

Should You Change Plans?

For businesses contemplating streamlining their software infrastructure, experiencing substantial growth, or transitioning to a permanent remote or hybrid work setup, migrating to Microsoft 365 E5 is a logical choice.

With Microsoft 365 E3 and E5, features and functionalities are integrated within a unified ecosystem. This simplifies team communication and enhances workflow efficiency. Microsoft 365 E5 enhances the E3 experience by introducing user-friendly collaboration tools like Teams Phone and a comprehensive security framework. The outcome is productivity bolstered by proactive security measures. While making the correct decision for your organization may appear daunting, Connection is ready to assist with planning, designing, deploying, and managing these products and solutions, ensuring your Microsoft licensing is the optimal fit for your needs. Contact your Account Team anytime for help!

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A Day in the Life of a Senior Executive... https://community.connection.com/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-senior-executive-account-manager/ Apr 02, 2024 Timothy Parsons https://community.connection.com/author/timothy-parsons/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/2525832-DayInTheLife-TimothyP-BLOG.jpg

Q1: As a Senior Executive Account Manager, what does a typical day look like for you and how does it differ from earlier stages in your career?

As a more seasoned rep here at Connection, a typical day involves studying to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening across the industry and bringing that insight to my valued clients. This involves reading about important events in the IT world, studying industry trends, and collaborating with strategic partners and vendors to hear new ways that they are helping customers accomplish goals and solve problems in their business. IT moves at an extremely fast pace, so this is a vital part of making sure my team can provide the best services possible to our customers.

However, knowledge alone doesn’t bring a lot of value. The best leaders in my role know how to take gained insights and translate that into meeting real-world business objectives. This is where my team and I are laser focused. Every time we meet with clients, we want to make sure we are bringing valuable insight that makes a difference in their world, assists them in accomplishing their goals, and helps them to sleep better at night.

Early in my career at Connection there was a heavy focus on building my network and gaining depth of understanding of the business world. I had background in providing technology solutions in a consumer environment, but less about how it applied in the business world. Our training, management, and later, a key mentorship program did a phenomenal job in teaching me how to accomplish both. In terms of how the role has changed with time and growth, it has evolved from building the network towards a heavier focus on fostering relationships that already exist, and selecting the team members that are the best fit to meet my clients’ business objectives. It has also shifted from learning about business in general, towards zeroing in on industry-specific areas—each of which have their own unique needs and compliance requirements that impact their go-to-market strategies.

Q2: How do you prioritize your tasks and manage your time effectively, especially when dealing with multiple clients and projects simultaneously?

When it comes to time management, I think the most important thing is having a plan going into your day. I always take careful notes in all meetings that I lead and attend. This allows me to set priorities and carve out an agenda for each day. However, considering the pace of the industry, it’s always important to leave room for emergency situations that arise and be able to pivot when needed.

A philosophy that is important to me is striving towards frictionless business for our clients. Priority one going into every day is customer responsiveness. I hear from a lot of folks that I work with that some partners are not responsive. Because of that—and because I sincerely care about the people I work with—it’s extremely important to me that my customers know that I am always going to respond quickly and accurately. Even if I don’t know the answer immediately, they are going to know that I am working on it right away. Why? Because that’s just good partnership!

Q3: How do you collaborate with other team members or departments to achieve your account management goals?

One of the most critical things I’ve learned at Connection is that teams are what build success. Nobody is an expert in everything, so collaboration is vitally important. My team and I always want to bring the right resources, with the right knowledge, to every meeting. I find that that is usually more than one person. Success comes from bringing the right people together to accomplish a mission, whether that is a customer goal or business objective.

I mentioned earlier that over the years my role has shifted into more relationship building. This includes daily conversations and meetings with colleagues and partners to learn more—and particularly to gain an understanding of what people are learning and who has expertise in what areas. I have expertise in areas my teammates and partners don’t. They have expertise in areas I don’t. If we work together, we can accomplish more. I am all about helping people out as much as I possibly can—and with that comes a level of reciprocity. When I help people, they want to help me, and we all help our clients achieve more.

I think reading a variety of publications is an important component of learning about industry trends. However, I would add that reading critically is also important. I am not a headline sifter. If an article or paper catches my attention, I like to dig into its content, try to view it from different angles and perspectives, and even push back against it in my mind a bit. I feel like this allows me to develop a better and more informed opinion about a topic.

This is when collaboration comes into play. I enjoy discussing my industry-trend ideas with colleagues, partners, and clients. I think this sort of discussion strengthens good opinions and filters out bad ones.

Q5: With 20 years of experience, what advice would you give to someone starting in the field of account management today?

I think the two most important things to apply to your role as a new account manager are:

  1. Understand what your customers’ business objectives are. Tech talk is cool. Flashy features are fun to talk about, but specs mean nothing unless they drive business outcomes.
  2. Relationships are everything. Strong customer relationships are critical. That is the goal! Strong colleague and partner relationships are what fuel strong customer relationships. They are interconnected, sort of like all the new and innovative tech that we all love discussing!
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Embracing the Future: A Deep Dive into... https://community.connection.com/embracing-the-future-a-deep-dive-into-windows-11-pro-devices-for-businesses/ Mar 27, 2024 Chris Roux https://community.connection.com/author/chris-roux/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/2514446-Windows11Pro-EmbracingTheFuture-BLOG.png

The world of technology is complex, but each new development brings with it a host of opportunities. One such development is the launch of Windows 11 Pro, Microsoft’s latest operating system. This blog post will explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 Pro devices and provide strategies for a smooth migration process.

Introduction: The Windows 11 Pro Upgrade Experience

Feeling overwhelmed by the switch to Windows 11 Pro? You’re not alone. Many businesses are wondering if it’s worth the hassle or are worried about a complicated migration process. But rest assured, Windows 11 is not a complete overhaul but a familiar friend with new features.

Windows 11 Pro as a Feature Update

Windows 11 Pro is more than just a new version of Windows, it’s a feature update that enhances the user experience. It brings a host of new features and improvements over its predecessor, Windows 10.

Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 11 Pro Devices

There are several compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 11 Pro Devices. It offers improved performance, a modern and streamlined interface, and new features designed to boost productivity. Why should you take the plunge?

  • Visual Refresh: Imagine sleek taskbar icons, rounded corners, and an overall modern vibe.
  • Performance Boost: New Windows 11 Pro devices are up to 42% faster at completing demanding workloads.
  • Enhanced Productivity: Snap Layouts, Snap Groups, and virtual desktops make multitasking a breeze.
  • Microsoft Store Revamp: It’s like the store got its own manager, better apps, and better curation.
  • Microsoft Teams Integration: Achieve seamless communication for work or virtual coffee breaks.
  • UEFI Firmware with Secure Boot: Security is the cool kid at the party.
  • DirectX 12 Compatible Graphics / WDDM 2.x: Fancy visuals await.

Integrating AI into Your Enterprise: A Strategic Road Map

In the digital transformation era, incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into your organization is not merely an upgrade; it’s a critical step toward redefining business operations and unlocking new potential. This journey, though challenging, promises a future where efficiency, insight, and innovation drive success.

Challenges in Adopting AI

Resistance to Change: One of the most common challenges is the natural resistance to change. Employees may be comfortable with existing processes and systems, fearing that new technology could disrupt their routine or even threaten job security.

Lack of Understanding and Training: Ensuring that all employees have a clear understanding of the new technology and are adequately trained to use it is crucial. Without proper training, adoption is slow, and the technology’s full potential remains untapped.

Poor Communication: Effective communication about the benefits and the “why” behind the change is critical. If the reasons for adopting new technology are not communicated effectively, it can lead to skepticism and a lack of buy-in from staff.

Technological Compatibility and Integration Issues: Often, new technology needs to integrate with existing systems—which can be complex. Ensuring compatibility and smooth integration is important for the seamless functioning of the organization.

Cost Implications: The cost of adopting new technology isn’t just financial; it also includes the time and resources spent on training and the transition period—which can temporarily impact productivity.

Key Strategies for Successful AI Integration

To overcome AI integration challenges, consider the following strategies:

Change Management Strategy: Develop a well-planned change management strategy that includes strong leadership support, effective communication, comprehensive training programs, and a clear understanding of the benefits that the new technology brings to each role in the organization.

Cultural Shift: Foster a culture that embraces innovation and continuous learning. Encourage employees to see AI as an enabler rather than a threat.

Collaboration: Involve cross-functional teams in the AI integration process. Collaboration ensures that different perspectives are considered, and potential roadblocks are addressed.

Pilot Projects: Start with small-scale pilot projects to test AI solutions. Learn from these experiments and iterate before scaling up.

Data Readiness: Ensure that your data is clean, accessible, and well-organized. AI relies heavily on data, so data readiness is critical.

Remember, successful AI integration is not just about technology; it’s about people, processes, and a shared vision for the future. By strategically adopting AI, organizations can unlock new opportunities and stay ahead in today’s dynamic business landscape. Whether you’re upgrading existing hardware or acquiring new equipment, a well-thought-out approach ensures smooth operations and optimal resource utilization. As a business, your hardware procurement decisions impact not only your bottom line but also your overall operational efficiency and employee productivity.

10 Steps to Strategic Hardware Procurement

  1. Align with Business Goals
    Business-centric Approach: Consider how hardware supports your core business functions. Every hardware choice should align with your strategic objectives, whether it’s enabling remote work, enhancing customer service, or optimizing production,
  2. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
    Beyond the Price Tag: Look beyond the initial purchase cost. Consider maintenance, support, and potential downtime. A slightly higher upfront investment in quality hardware can yield significant savings over its lifecycle.
  3. Scalability and Future-proofing
    Think Ahead: Choose hardware that can scale with your business. Anticipate growth and technological advancements. Avoid investing in solutions that become obsolete too quickly.
  4. User Experience Matters
    Employee Productivity: Hardware impacts how efficiently your team works. Ergonomic devices, fast processors, and ample memory contribute to a positive user experience.
  5. Security and Compliance
    Protect Your Assets: Prioritize security features. Ensure compliance with industry regulations. Hardware vulnerabilities can lead to data breaches and legal repercussions.
  6. Vendor Relationships
    Strategic Partnerships: Engage with vendors who understand your business needs. Look for long-term relationships rather than transactional interactions.
  7. Sustainability and Environmental Impact
    Eco-friendly Choices: Consider the environmental impact. Select energy-efficient devices and explore recycling programs.
  8. Procurement Process Streamlining
    Efficient Workflow: Streamline procurement processes. Ensure efficiency and transparency from requisition to delivery.
  9. Employee Involvement
    User Feedback: Involve end-users in hardware decisions. Their insights matter. They’re the ones using the devices daily.
  10. Lifecycle Management
    Retirement Plans: Plan for hardware retirement. Perform regular assessments and replace outdated equipment.

Conclusion: Embracing the Future with Windows 11 Pro Devices

As we conclude this comprehensive exploration of Windows 11 Pro, it’s clear that this new operating system is more than just an upgrade—it’s a leap into the future of business computing. With its modern interface, enhanced performance, and innovative features, Windows 11 Pro devices are poised to revolutionize the way businesses operate.

The integration of AI into Windows 11 Pro devices is particularly exciting. By automating tasks and providing personalized experiences, AI is set to boost productivity and efficiency across all levels of a business. This, coupled with the improved performance of Windows 11 Pro devices, means businesses can look forward to a significant increase in productivity.

However, the transition to Windows 11 Pro requires careful planning and execution. From understanding the hardware requirements to creating a refresh plan, every step is crucial for a smooth migration. The possibility of running Windows 10 and 11 concurrently offers businesses the flexibility to migrate at their own pace, minimizing potential disruptions. Moreover, the procurement of new hardware, if necessary, should be a strategic decision. Factors such as budget, compatibility, and future-proofing need to be considered to ensure the best return on investment.

Finally, remember that a successful migration to Windows 11 Pro is not just about the technology, it’s also about the people who will be using it. Providing adequate user training and support is key to ensuring a smooth transition and unlocking the full potential of Windows 11 Pro.

In conclusion, Windows 11 Pro represent a significant step forward in business computing. By embracing this new technology, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and pave the way for a more productive and efficient future.

So, are you ready to embrace the future with Windows 11 Pro devices? The journey starts now. Contact your Connection Account Team to discuss AI integration best practices and more!

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What Is Microsoft Copilot? A Guide to the... https://community.connection.com/what-is-microsoft-copilot-a-guide-to-the-latest-features/ Mar 26, 2024 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/2544881-MS-Copilot-BLOG.jpg

I am sure you have heard many things about Microsoft Copilot at this point, and then many things about the many different Copilots as well. But what exactly is Copilot and what are the differences between the varieties and how they work within the Microsoft ecosystem?  

Let’s start with the basics. Microsoft Copilot is a groundbreaking AI-powered innovation that harnesses the capabilities of machine learning and natural language processing to enhance efficiency, foster innovation, and elevate teamwork within the Microsoft ecosystem. Serving as an advanced digital assistant, Copilot streamlines operations by providing intelligent recommendations and valuable insights, as well as automating repetitive tasks.

Copilot enables users to engage in coding, writing, image generation, and information retrieval. It transcends traditional tool functionality, offering a holistic solution tailored for Microsoft's suite of products, including Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Fabric, Sales, Service, and GitHub. With its AI-driven features, Copilot transforms conventional task approaches, stimulating creativity and productivity.

Top Benefits of Using Copilot

Utilizing Microsoft Copilot offers myriad advantages for businesses, ranging from heightened efficiency and productivity to decreased workload and stress.

  • Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity: Through task automation, intelligent suggestions, and workflow optimization, Copilot elevates workplace efficiency and productivity.
  • Reduced Workload and Stress: By handling repetitive tasks and offering meaningful insights, Copilot diminishes employee workload, leading to reduced stress and greater overall wellness.
  • Fostering Collaboration and Creativity: With its real-time collaboration capabilities and original suggestions, Copilot cultivates a collaborative environment, inspiring team members to combine forces to work together in coauthoring innovative work.
  • Optimized Cost Management: Copilot offers guidance and suggestions to optimize costs, allowing businesses to achieve long-term savings while maintaining exceptional quality standards.
  • Seamless Integration with the Microsoft Ecosystem: Because it is a Microsoft product, Copilot perfectly works alongside other Microsoft tools, ensuring a consistent user experience.
  • Security and Data Privacy: Copilot follows leading cybersecurity protocols, integrating state-of-the-art security measures such as data encryption and data residency options to consistently protect your organization's sensitive information.
  • Emphasizing Commercial Data Protection: Copilot prioritizes safeguarding commercial data, guaranteeing confidentiality and integrity.
  • Enforcing Logical Isolation: Copilot employs logical isolation to compartmentalize data, preventing unauthorized access and ensuring a secure work environment.
  • Detailed User Permissions: Copilot provides granular user permissions, enabling organizations to efficiently regulate access and promote a secure and compliant ecosystem.

What Are the Different Copilots and How Can You Use Them Effectively?

Microsoft Copilot (formerly Bing Chat, or Bing Chat Enterprise) is perfectly suited to assist you with everyday tasks such as searching online. Microsoft Copilot makes your browsing experience faster and easier across Bing, Edge, and Windows.

Copilot in Bing transcends traditional search engines. Serving as your personal AI assistant, Copilot streamlines your online search experience by delivering swift and concise responses to inquiries—conserving your time and energy. In addition, it extends support by furnishing recommendations and aid for writing assignments, making it an asset for both students and professionals.

Discover Copilot’s capabilities within Bing by following these simple steps. Just head to Bing's homepage, sign in with your Microsoft account (or register one for free), and seamlessly access Copilot via the search bar. Input your query, press enter, and appreciate the prompt and succinct responses to your inquiries.

Edge stands as Microsoft’s innovative and robust Web browser, elevated further with the inclusion of Copilot. Leveraging its AI capabilities, Edge accelerates information retrieval, enhances your browsing experience, and protects your online privacy. Additionally, it seamlessly integrates with Bing, delivering a comprehensive and streamlined search journey.

Unlock the potential of Copilot in Edge by following these steps:

  1. Launch your Microsoft Edge browser. If it’s not already installed, you can download it from the official Microsoft website.
  2. Confirm that you’re signed in to your Microsoft Account. If not, access Settings and Profiles from the three-dot menu at the browser’s top-right corner, and then click on Add Profile to either log in or create an account.
  3. Once signed in, access Edge Settings by clicking on the three-dot menu at the browser’s top-right corner.
  4. In the Settings menu, select Privacy, Search, and Services.
  5. Scroll down to the Services section and locate Microsoft Copilot.
  6. Activate Copilot by toggling the switch to ‘On’.

Copilot can now improve your Edge browsing experience by offering intelligent suggestions and expediting search outcomes. Remember, for Copilot to operate optimally, keep your Edge browser updated to the latest version! Regular updates not only introduce new features but also uphold the highest standards of security for your browsing activities.

Copilot for Windows 11 provides a state-of-the-art, AI-driven assistant crafted to elevate your digital interactions, helping you increase your productivity. Copilot stands as your smart assistant, seamlessly woven into your workflow, easily accessible on the taskbar, or a Win+C keyboard shortcut away.

Experience heightened efficiency as Copilot empowers you to uncover answers and inspiration from the Web while nurturing creativity and collaboration. Streamline cognitive load and expedite task fulfillment with its intuitive aid.

Whether you’re at work, school, or home, Copilot remains by your side delivering support alongside your apps. Its presence amplifies focus and helps you complete numerous tasks.

Copilot for Microsoft 365

Copilot for Microsoft 365 is now seamlessly integrated into the Microsoft 365 suite and will reform the way you work within Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, SharePoint, and more. Whether you are using it to answer queries, generate content, or analyze data, Copilot for Microsoft 365 augments productivity with its natural language capabilities.

On January 15, 2024, Microsoft announced Copilot’s availability regardless of seat size for individuals, enterprises, and anyone in between. This inclusive accessibility ensures that regardless of your team or organization size, you can leverage Copilot’s array of benefits and features. Whether you’re working independently or within a sizable company, Copilot stands ready to elevate your productivity and efficiency levels.

Microsoft Copilot serves as an AI-driven productivity solution, seamlessly merging your data across Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 applications and services.

Harnessing machine learning algorithms and natural language processing, Microsoft Copilot comprehends context and provides intelligent recommendations. This entails Copilot being trained on extensive datasets, encompassing code among other information.

Highlighted below are key attributes of Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 applications:

Copilot in Outlook

Copilot within Outlook helps to manage your inbox effectively and craft communications in significantly less time. Use Copilot in Outlook to condense lengthy email exchanges into concise summaries by requesting Copilot to encapsulate an email thread—swiftly navigating to the essence of the summarized content, while also proposing action items, responses, and scheduling follow-up meetings. Also, when composing an email, you can select preferences for length and tone with Copilot’s help!

Copilot in Word

Copilot within Word revamps your writing process, fostering productivity and creativity as you craft, summarize, comprehend, refine, and enhance your documents. Now, leverage advanced functionalities that include text visualization and table conversion, adding to existing prompts, composing a document with reference to up to 3 documents, and exploring document-related information.

Create a first draft easily with Copilot, igniting inspiration and allowing it to expand on your existing idea. Seamlessly convert text into tables using Copilot’s rewriting capabilities. Begin a chat with Copilot to unearth supplementary details that work to enrich your document. When time is of the essence, allow Copilot to condense your document for you.

Copilot in Excel

Copilot in Excel collaborates with you to streamline data analysis and exploration. Ask Copilot questions regarding your data in natural language, not just formulas. It shows correlations, presents what-if scenarios, and proposes new formulas based on your inquiries—constructing models tailored to your questions, allowing for data exploration without altering the data itself. Discern trends, craft impactful visualizations, or solicit recommendations to drive varied outcomes.

Leverage Copilot’s assistance to delve into and comprehend your data with enhanced efficiency. Pinpoint significant insights and visualize your data easily. Streamline your focus on critical aspects by effortlessly highlighting, filtering, and sorting your data. Seamlessly devise formulas with Copilot’s recommendations for complex calculations.

Copilot in PowerPoint

Copilot within PowerPoint empowers you to translate your concepts into captivating presentations. Think of Copilot in PowerPoint as your narrative collaborator helping you to convert existing written documents into comprehensive decks, including speaker notes and references, or to initiate a new presentation from a basic prompt or outline.

Copilot is your PowerPoint partner whether you’re crafting a fresh presentation or needing a summary of a lengthier one. Entrust Copilot to arrange your slides, smoothly restructuring them to your specifications. Additionally, easily integrate your organization’s branding by allowing Copilot to generate slides or visuals.

Copilot in Teams

Copilot within Teams can summarize conversations, precisely organize pivotal discussion points, and create of meeting agendas derived from chat history. Stay updated by obtaining answers to specific inquiries and catching up on any overlooked details. Communication amongst teams becomes further enriched when relying on Copilot for identifying who needs follow-ups and scheduling subsequent check-ins, enhancing productivity all around.

Copilot in Viva

Copilot within Microsoft Viva stands as the forefront AI tool, delivering quick, precise, and personalizes responses and insights customed to your business context. Microsoft Viva Copilot employs advanced AI to accelerate workforce insights and elevate employee engagement. It equips managers with predictive tools, thereby fostering a more connected and effective workforce. Copilot prioritizes security, compliance, and privacy while championing responsible AI practices and heightened employee engagement.

Copilot in OneNote

Copilot within OneNote facilitates a transformative approach to planning and organization, enabling better preparedness and proactive action based on your notes. Now, delve deeper into your notes by posing comprehensive questions, generating summaries of your content, requesting Copilot to generate content, and aiding in enhancing the clarity of your writing.

Copilot in Loop

Copilot within Loop empowers you to harness the potential of collective ideation—co-create, synchronize with teammates, and maintain alignment effortlessly. Collaboratively with Copilot in Loop as a team, you can co-craft prompts, generate tables to streamline team projects, pick up where your teammates left off, summarize page content, and produce a recap for a colleague to whom you’re delegating work.

Copilot in Whiteboard

Copilot within Whiteboard serves as a catalyst, expediting your process from idea, to generation, to organization, to summarization. Engage in collaborative brainstorming sessions, receive insights from Copilot tailored to your creations, and refine your brainstorming outputs into refined presentations.

What Is Microsoft Security Copilot?

Presently available through invitation-only early access, Microsoft Security Copilot has emerged as a pivotal tool within the security domain. Leveraging data signals from diverse sources like Microsoft Defender Threat Intelligence, Microsoft Sentinel, and Microsoft Intune, it proactively identifies threats and automates responses for swift threat resolution. Enhanced by a specialized language model with dedicated capabilities, Microsoft Security Copilot’s effectiveness is heightened, enabling it to effectively monitor potential cyber risks.

Moreover, Security Copilot aids organizations in enhancing the productivity of their existing security teams by bridging skill gaps, delivering ongoing risk assessments, and furnishing customized recommendations. These measures fortify the overall cybersecurity posture, particularly in managing imminent threats or potential attacks.

Are You Ready for Microsoft Copilot?

While the array of different Copilots is vast, imagine the possibilities in productivity, creativity, and organization. Embracing AI requires careful planning, meticulous preparation, and a readiness mindset to ensure successful implementation and return on investment. Microsoft 365 Copilot is no exception.

Embark on the initial steps of integrating AI into your workplace with Connection's Copilot for Microsoft 365 Workshop. Crafted as a three-phase engagement, our workshop will assist you in assessing needs, prioritizing Copilot scenarios, and defining an actionable roadmap. It provides insights into your readiness and identifies optimization opportunities through tailored services aimed at enhancing your data infrastructure, analyzing and enhancing accessibility, and maximizing security.

Let Connection guide you in preparing for Copilot implementation and realizing its full range of benefits and return on investment. Reach out to your Account Team for more information on how to get started.

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Vision AI Unlocks New Factory Insight https://community.connection.com/vision-ai-unlocks-new-factory-insight/ Mar 19, 2024 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/2536525-Helix-Manufacturing-VisionAI-Blog.jpg

Vision AI, the technology that allows computers to “see” and understand the physical world, has been a mainstay in manufacturing for decades. From robotic arms picking up parts to automated optical inspection lines, cameras have played a crucial role in streamlining processes and ensuring quality. However, in recent years, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has injected a potent new wave into camera vision, transforming its capabilities and impact on the manufacturing landscape from niche automation use cases to a diverse solution that allows you to go deep and wide, and modernize across various disciplines.

Vision AI can also be an essential tool to improve revenue, manage costs, and, most critically, address workforce shortages in manufacturing. 72% of manufacturers view workplace acquisition as the number one challenge. In December of 2023, there were 601,000 unfilled manufacturing job openings, and 4 million more manufacturing jobs are expected to be required by 2030. Manufacturers struggle to attract and retain workers, and a lack of workforce will make it challenging to staff production lines, support expansion, and meet long-term strategic growth objectives. So how will your company mitigate these risks and tackle its future?

Whatever your company’s motivation, the key is to understand where to start, how to bring early time to value, and how best to scale and align to the many business challenges and opportunities associated with the application of vision AI.

What Has Changed?

While the technology, quality, and breadth of vision models have accelerated, the most notable change is eliminating the barrier to entry. Manufacturers of any size may benefit from these technologies due to lower infrastructure costs, accessible open-source models, and technological advances that make them realistic for any business.

  • Tagging and Camera Vision AI: The ability to automatically tag and categorize objects in images, coupled with AI algorithms that can learn and adapt to variations, has vastly expanded the scope of what cameras can do. This has led to systems that identify objects to understand their relationships, contextualization, and may even predict future behavior.
  • Lower Cost Cameras: The proliferation of high-resolution, affordable cameras has made deploying vision systems across diverse manufacturing environments more feasible. This democratizes the technology and allows smaller players to leverage its benefits. Some camera partners provide out-of-the-box vision AI functionality (aka, license plate detection or people detection), but these same cameras can be extended with advanced vision AI models. Whether your business requires low-cost IP cameras, high-end 8K cameras, or specialty cameras with high-speed industrial functionalities, the methodology for integrating any cameras with vision AI remains the same.
  • Advancements in GPUs and Edge Compute: Powerful graphics processing units (GPUs) and edge computing technologies bring real-time processing capabilities closer to the data source, enabling faster responses and minimizing latency. This allows immediate inferencing and decision-making based on unstructured data, further optimizing production lines.
  • Hyperscalers: Today’s hyperscalers are building vision AI into their platforms, removing barriers to this technology. These platforms integrate natively into their respective cloud stacks, integrate governance and security, and provide lifecycle support allowing organizations to label, tune, inference, and deploy. Depending on your business model and needs, many hyperscalers allow for inferencing in the cloud and deployment at the edge. Whichever you require, these solutions streamline MLOps and make it easier to manage over the life of the models, including deployment to edge compute.

What Are the Top Use Cases for Vision AI?

There aren’t many things you can’t accomplish given the right sample size, time, and money. With the advent of existing vision AI models detecting a wide range of objects, locations, text, and sentiments, it’s possible to detect and capture unstructured insight from images and videos to suit just about any use case. The good news is you don’t have to start with the most complicated use cases to get a business success. The following highlights some of the most feasible and widely adopted use cases in manufacturing that will get your organization up and running with meaningful business impact.

  • Real-time Quality Control: High-resolution cameras combined with AI can inspect products at every production stage and identify minute defects that might escape the human eye. This leads to higher quality output, reduced waste, and improved brand reputation. For example, organizations that deployed AI-enabled quality control could see a reduction in defect rates by as much as 50% and save up to 50% on inspection costs. Given its high feasibility and business outcome, quality control is also the most widely adopted use case in manufacturing. If you want to start somewhere—start with quality control use cases.
  • Predictive Maintenance: Cameras can now monitor equipment for subtle changes in vibration, temperature, movement, or wear patterns. AI algorithms analyze this data to predict potential failures before they occur, preventing costly downtime and ensuring smooth operation. Factory equipment often contributes to costly downtime, and implementing predictive maintenance can reduce unplanned maintenance events by as much as 30%.
  • Optimized Production Lines: AI can analyze the flow of materials and products on a production line in real time, identifying bottlenecks and suggesting adjustments. This dynamic optimization increases throughput, reduces waste, and improves efficiency. A study found that AI-powered production line optimization can increase output by up to 25% and decrease waste by 15%. This is an excellent example of the evolution of machine vision towards a more holistic capability. Instead of just monitoring a single cell, cameras installed in the ceiling or over production lines now can reference a wide range of situations, allowing organizations to use cameras to gather more systemic insight within the plant and thus transform how they optimize their value stream.
  • Optimized Robotics and Automation: AI vision enhances the capabilities of robots, equipping them with the ability to navigate complex environments, manipulate delicate objects, and adapt to changes in production workflows. This opens doors to increased automation, improved worker safety, and greater production flexibility. A study by the International Federation of Robotics found that collaborative robots assisted by vision systems can boost productivity by up to 40%.
  • Enhanced Worker Safety: Most manufacturers track worker safety incidents after they’ve occurred. Cameras not only help determine the root cause for a particular incident, but they can also be used to identify unreported safety incidents, unreported injuries, and utilized to support a more proactive workplace safety culture. AI vision can detect unsafe practices and hazardous conditions in real-time, triggering alerts and even shut down equipment to prevent accidents. This can significantly improve worker safety and reduce workplace injuries, and ultimately drive the organization to be more proactive about its actions to protect employees.

Start Seeing Differently

Vision AI is not just a trend but a transformative force reshaping the manufacturing landscape. There is massive potential to collect unstructured data and translate that into valuable insight. Just imagine, whatever a supervisor, technician, or operator can see can often be emulated with a vision AI solution. This enables organizations to augment workforce gaps, eliminate mundane, error-prone, or non-value-added activities, and allow the workers we do have to perform value-added and thoughtful activities.

The power of vision AI to improve efficiency, quality, and safety is undeniable, and the collective advancements in this technology are paving the way for a more intelligent, productive, and competitive future for the manufacturing sector. As the technology evolves and becomes more accessible, expect to see even more innovation and disruption with expanding use cases, off-the-shelf foundational models, and integration with other AI capabilities like generative AI.

The key is not to wait. Most manufacturers need more skillsets and a broad understanding of applying this powerful technology in their business processes and technology stack. Starting early provides the ability to bring many stakeholders together, solve meaningful business challenges with realistic returns on investment, and prepare the organization for what will quickly follow. At the end of the day, those who start and execute with vision AI will outcompete those who don’t.

Our Manufacturing Practice has a team of experts from trade, an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions, and assists IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skills with complimentary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most.

If your business wants to learn more about how we support our clients with artificial intelligence, engage our Helix Center for Applied AI and Robotics to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

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Connection Announces the 2024 IT Superhero... https://community.connection.com/connection-announces-the-2024-it-superhero-awards/ Mar 14, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/253664-ITSA-2024-Blog.jpg

The IT Superhero Awards are back for another amazing year! We are proud to share that Connection will host the fourth annual IT Superhero Awards, honoring hardworking IT heroes from across the country for their dedication and technical expertise. The awards program recognizes IT professionals, nominated by their colleagues, for going above and beyond the call of duty to save the day for their team. Submit your nomination today!

There are five award categories for the 2024 IT Superhero Awards:

  • Best Team Leader–The Best Team Leader Award goes to a true motivator who leads others to success and inspires greatness.
  • Best Rookie–The Best Rookie Award is for that fresh IT pro who performs like a seasoned pro.
  • Best Catch–The Best Catch Award honors a teammate who made an amazing save, big or small, that averted disaster.
  • Best Superpower–The Best Superpower Award recognizes a hardworking hero capable of performing astonishing feats, no matter the deadline.
  • Most Unshakeable–The Most Unshakeable Award belongs to a winner who is always calm, patient, and focused in the face of IT chaos.

A grand-prize winner, chosen from the 5 category winners, will be named the 2024 Ultimate IT Superhero!

Winners will have the opportunity to select one of three charities—Feeding America, NPower, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)—to receive a $1,500 donation from Connection in their name, with a $3,000 donation in the name of the Ultimate IT Superhero. These extraordinary non-profits were selected by Connection employees as part of Connection Cares.

The IT Superhero Awards program is open to IT professionals from organizations of all sizes and industries, spanning startups to large enterprises across all vertical markets. Winners will be announced at the Connection Technology Summit in Boston, MA on September 12, 2024. Read the full press release for complete details.

Nominations for the 2024 IT Superhero Awards are due June 28, 2024—submit yours today!

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Bringing Clinicians and Patients... https://community.connection.com/bringing-clinicians-and-patients-closer-together-at-himss24/ Mar 05, 2024 Jennifer Johnson https://community.connection.com/author/jennifer-johnson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2513171-HIMSS24-BLOG.jpg

As we stand on the brink of 2024, it’s fascinating to reflect on how far we’ve come since 2006—a year when the average cost of gas was $2.64, healthcare was still establishing uniform standards for EHRs, and most of us navigated the digital world through Windows XP. That same year, Connection made its inaugural appearance at the HIMSS conference in San Diego, California, marking the beginning of a transformative journey in healthcare IT.

The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has long been recognized as a global beacon, guiding the healthcare ecosystem through the power of information and technology. As a mission-driven nonprofit, HIMSS leverages its expertise in health innovation, public policy, workforce development, research, and digital transformation to empower leaders and influencers worldwide.

In this spirit of innovation and partnership, Connection is thrilled to announce our 18th year as a HIMSS Diamond Sponsor, a testament to our commitment to advancing healthcare through technology. We invite you to join us in Booth #1449 during the HIMSS24 conference to explore how our dedicated specialists tailor IT offerings to meet the unique needs of the healthcare sector, fostering infrastructure modernization and enhancing the connection between caregivers and patients.

Addressing Key Healthcare IT Challenges

With healthcare costs anticipated to climb by over 7% in 2024, and health system ransomware attacks more than doubling last year, the urgency for advanced, secure IT solutions has never been greater. Connection, along with our esteemed partners, is at the forefront of addressing these challenges.

Connection, a Fortune 1000 company, calms the confusion of IT by delivering customers industry-leading technology solutions to enhance growth, elevate productivity, and empower innovation. Dedicated specialists focused on exceptional service and customized offerings tailored to the unique needs of healthcare. Partnering with healthcare organizations of every size—from private practices to large health systems—Connection delivers end-to-end IT solutions and expert guidance to accelerate infrastructure modernization and bring caregivers and patients closer together.

At HIMSS24, Connection Booth #1449 will be a hub of innovation and collaboration, including:

  • Demonstrations on Operations Management, Patient Experience, and Provider Experience solutions
  • Insights into our Digital Workspace, Modern Infrastructure, Multicloud, Supply Chain and Lifestyle services portfolio
  • Opportunity for engaging discussions with our expert Solution Architects, Services, Sales, and executive leadership team

Additionally, our booth will offer a refreshment station, a space for assembling Connection Cares veteran’s care kits, a device charging station, and exclusive in-booth receptions.

HIMSS24 Conference Experiences

Attendees can also continue their journey to better global health during these unique conference experiences with members of the Connection team, including:

Lunch and Learn
Navigating the AI Revolution in Healthcare: From Prognosis to Ethics
Presented by Jamal Khan, Chief Growth and Innovation Officer and Head of Helix Center for Applied AI and Robotics
Tuesday, March 12
1:00–2:00 p.m.
Orange County Convention Center
Room 202B 

Focus Group (Invitation Only)
Third Party Risk—The growing cyber and compliance concern for Healthcare
Presented by Connection Security Experts
Wednesday, March 13
12:30–1:30 p.m.

Customer Happy Hour
Enjoy food, drinks, and networking with the Connection team
Wednesday, March 13
4:30–6:00 p.m.
Orange County Convention Center
Booth 1449 | Exhibit Hall
Register Here

Esteemed Partners at HIMSS24

Our partners—including Abacode, Barco Healthcare, Dell, Google, and more—bring their unique strengths and innovations to the table, offering a holistic view of the future of healthcare technology.

From cybersecurity and compliance to medical imaging, Generative AI, and modernizing healthcare solutions, our collaborative efforts aim to empower healthcare providers and patients alike. Alongside the Connection team, these esteemed partners will join us in Booth #1449:

Abacode is the leader in unified Cybersecurity and Compliance services™. With one managed program, Abacode secures your digital environment and helps you reach a state of continuous compliance. Founded in 2014, Abacode is headquartered in Tampa, FL, with Security Operations Centers in Tampa and Las Vegas. They deliver customized, managed programs aligned with industry best practices to help clients achieve positive business outcomes.

Abacode provides world-class professional services combined with leading-edge technology solutions to ensure that client needs are met to the highest standards. With a diverse international client base spanning multiple sectors, Abacode’s unique approach leverages a predictable, repeatable model that helps clients achieve results four times faster than the industry average.

Barco Healthcare’s extensive line-up of high-precision medical monitors brings accuracy and efficiency to a broad range of healthcare disciplines including Radiology, Mammography, Digital Pathology, Clinical Review, and Dentistry. Complimented by cloud based QAWeb Enterprise, stable image quality is supported throughout the display’s entire lifetime by keeping an eye on your displays, so you don’t need to with automated calibration tests, quality assurance, and reporting. By providing medical staff with the complete and most accurate picture, Barco enables more informed decisions, when and where it matters most.

With a patient first, data-anywhere focus, Dell reimagines patient care delivery—where secure, modern health IT solutions enable a more connected workforce providing personalized care to patients wherever they might be.

Generative AI (GenAI) is a game-changing technology that has tremendous potential for the healthcare industry. GenAI can transform how you interact with patients, provide tools and resources that empower employees and improve productivity, and support risk scenario planning and data security measures. Dell is working alongside NVIDIA to enable Generative AI workloads—delivering engineering-validated hardware and software to accelerate AI workloads across the healthcare landscape.

Google’s comprehensive suite of Google Cloud, Google WorkSpace, Google Chrome, and Google Pixel all working together enables healthcare professionals to collaborate effortlessly, ultimately improving the delivery of high-quality care and furthering advancements in the life sciences field.

“Google is a life company…not a health company. To have a high quality of life, health is very important. We want to help people, and we want to help enterprises meet consumers where they are and give them what they need. One of the primary goals of the company is to help billions of people around the world become healthier in an equitable manner… giving every single person an opportunity to have the highest quality of health.” –Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s Chief Health Officer.

Embrace the Future of Healthcare IT with Connection

As we gather at HIMSS24, let’s embrace the opportunity to shape the future of healthcare together. Visit Connection in Booth #1449 to witness how technology can transform healthcare for the better. Join us in this journey towards a more connected, efficient, and secure healthcare ecosystem.

Schedule a meeting with the Connection team in Booth #1449 during HIMSS24.

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Navigating the AI Revolution in Manufacturing https://community.connection.com/navigating-the-ai-revolution-in-manufacturing/ Feb 28, 2024 Jamal Khan https://community.connection.com/author/jamal-khan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2518458-Helix-AIManufacturing-BLOG.jpg

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the manufacturing sector represents a pivotal shift, set to transform operational efficiency, drive innovation, and fundamentally alter manufacturing processes.

The manufacturing sector is an ideal setting for AI implementation. With its repetitive tasks and wide range of functions, it presents a perfect opportunity for AI to enhance various aspects of manufacturing, from research and development to production, and even extending to aftermarket services. AI's ability to improve productivity, bolster quality control, and optimize supply chains is poised to dramatically increase efficiency and foster innovation in the industry.

However, adopting AI in manufacturing is not without its challenges and complexities. To navigate this evolving landscape successfully, manufacturers must form strategic partnerships with AI experts. Connection’s Helix Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence is strategically positioned to guide manufacturers through the intricacies of AI integration, ensuring a seamless and efficient transition.

Why the Time for AI in Manufacturing Is Now

The manufacturing landscape is at a pivotal moment, with several compelling factors making it the perfect time for manufacturers to adopt AI:

Economic and Workforce Pressures

Today’s manufacturing sector is navigating through stormy economic pressures, further complicated by a significant shortage of skilled labor. The National Association of Manufacturers points to a staggering projected shortfall of 2.1 million jobs in the next decade. This gap emphasizes the critical need for AI technologies, which can not only augment but also revolutionize workforce capabilities, offering solutions to these pressing challenges.

The Data Explosion

Manufacturing operations generate a wealth of data, encompassing production metrics, logistics details, and a vast array of other valuable insights. However, a significant portion of this potential remains unutilized due to the inherent complexities of data capture and analysis. Fortunately, AI has the unique ability to navigate this data deluge and unlock previously inaccessible efficiencies and actionable insights.

Advances in AI Algorithms and Infrastructure

The AI landscape has undergone a transformation, with advances in algorithms and supporting infrastructure making AI more accessible than ever. Breakthroughs in neural networks and machine learning, along with more readily available computing power, have significantly reduced the barriers to AI adoption, making it a viable, cost-effective option for manufacturers of all sizes.

Enhanced Processing Capability

The modern manufacturing process demands high-speed, efficient processing capabilities, and AI is stepping up to meet this need. With the ability to process and analyze data at unprecedented speeds, AI technologies enable manufacturers to optimize operations, reduce waste, and make more informed decisions faster than ever before.

Democratization of AI Tools

Today, AI technologies are not confined to tech giants and large corporations. A wide array of platforms and tools are now available, making it easier for manufacturers, regardless of their size, to leverage AI. This accessibility ensures that even small and medium-sized enterprises can harness the power of AI to innovate and compete on a global scale.

The Boundless Potential of Use Cases for AI in Manufacturing

Now is the ideal time for manufacturers to adopt AI, with early adopters already experiencing substantial business benefits. AI technologies are being utilized to enhance workplace safety, transform supply chains, employ camera vision for optimizing production line processes, and more. These are some of the top use cases for AI in manufacturing:

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive failure and maintenance uses algorithms to predict the next machine or system failure, then alerts employees so that they’re able to prevent that failure from happening. It can analyze data from equipment sensors, forecasting potential failures and scheduling maintenance to prevent downtime, thereby saving millions in potential lost revenue. Defined as the “low hanging fruit” by one research institution, intelligent maintenance of machinery and equipment is the most common use of AI in manufacturing.1

Machine Vision and Quality Control

Specialized cameras can interact with AI-based software to improve operations, check for quality, and take action depending on the results. Through advanced image recognition and machine learning algorithms, AI systems can inspect products with a level of accuracy and speed unattainable by human operators. Analyzing images in real-time to complete product quality inspections is critical to augment the workforce and stay in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Transforming Supply Chains with AI

AI algorithms can process vast amounts of data from various sources—including market trends, weather forecasts, and geopolitical events—to make informed predictions about supply chain disruptions. This capability enables manufacturers to be proactive rather than reactive, ensuring the smooth operation of supply chains even in the face of unforeseen challenges. This ability also allows manufacturers to predict buying behavior allows manufacturers to optimize inventory control, staffing, energy consumption, raw materials, and more.

Digital Twins

A digital twin is a virtual model of an actual manufacturing process, created by using data from both the process itself and the products that pass through it. This technology can seamlessly synchronize sales and operations by analyzing sales data, taking into account seasonal, regional, and event-driven fluctuations. AI models can leverage this analysis to inform production planning across various facilities, ensuring product availability aligns efficiently with market demand.

Customization and Personalization

AI is revolutionizing how companies meet individual customer preferences without compromising on efficiency. By analyzing data, AI enables manufacturers to predict trends and innovate products ahead of consumer demands. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) allow customers to customize products virtually, ensuring satisfaction before purchase.

In production, AI enhances flexibility by adapting processes for custom orders, with robots performing complex tasks accurately and 3D printing enabling on-demand custom production. This automation maintains speed in manufacturing. Furthermore, AI personalizes the delivery process by predicting demand and optimizing delivery routes, ensuring quicker and more personalized service.

Workplace Safety

AI has unlocked the potential for a range of technologies aimed at enhancing workplace safety. This includes the implementation of systems for the detection of personal protective equipment (PPE), ensuring that workers are adequately protected at all times. Safety zoning is another area where AI contributes significantly, by monitoring and managing access to hazardous areas, thereby preventing unauthorized or unsafe entries.

AI-driven predictive maintenance for equipment can foresee potential failures before they occur, reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring that machinery operates safely and efficiently. AI can also analyze workplace data in real-time to identify patterns that may indicate safety risks, allowing for proactive measures to mitigate potential hazards.

Synthetic Data and Collaborative Innovation

For areas where data is scarce or sensitive, synthetic data can help manufacturers to simulate scenarios and train AI models without compromising real data. This approach, however, requires careful design to ensure that synthetic data accurately reflects real-world conditions without introducing biases.

Overcoming the Hurdles to AI Adoption in Manufacturing

The potential rewards of incorporating AI solutions into the manufacturing space are significant; however, manufacturers must also navigate a series of obstacles to successfully implement AI. These obstacles include:

Data and Integration Challenges

A key hurdle is the integration of AI into existing manufacturing systems, many of which are legacy platforms not originally designed for compatibility with AI technologies. The diversity and volume of data generated in manufacturing environments further complicate this issue. Manufacturers must take action to standardize and harmonize data across disparate systems to create a cohesive, AI-ready infrastructure.

The Workforce and Job Displacement Concerns

The introduction of AI in manufacturing raises concerns about job displacement and the need for workforce upskilling. As AI automates routine tasks, the nature of jobs will evolve, necessitating a shift in the skills that workers need to thrive. Manufacturers must prioritize retraining and education initiatives to prepare their workforce for this new landscape.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations, particularly around bias in AI algorithms, present another challenge. AI systems are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on. Ensuring data diversity and implementing robust testing protocols are critical steps in mitigating the risk of unintentional biases, which can lead to skewed outcomes and decision-making.

Supply Chain Issues

Supply chain disruptions create incomplete and fragmented data, hindering AI training and effectiveness. Additionally, component shortages and rising costs delay and inflate implementation projects.

Your AI Journey Shouldn’t Be a Solo One

Implementing AI initiatives in a manufacturing facility comes with an inherent set of challenges. Manufacturers should not undertake this journey alone. Establishing strategic partnerships with leading technology companies can greatly enhance the success of integrating AI.

The path to successfully deploying AI extends across various domains, requiring collaboration in areas such as infrastructure setup, model training, quality assurance, and security measures. Even seemingly straightforward applications, like camera vision technology, require a detailed strategy that includes selecting appropriate hardware, integrating with existing network systems, deploying GPU-enabled edge devices for processing, and continuously maintaining and updating AI models. This multifaceted approach underlines the complexity of AI adoption and the necessity of both external partnerships and internal capability building.

While partnerships are essential, cultivating internal AI expertise within an organization is equally important. A well-developed internal skill set ensures the organization can engage in meaningful conversations with vendors, effectively evaluate the real benefits and applications of AI, and scrutinize the costs, risks, and data-handling aspects of proposed AI solutions. This balance between external collaboration and internal proficiency enables a comprehensive and nuanced approach to AI integration.

How Connection Can Help You Integrate AI Into your Manufacturing Processes

Manufacturers who partner with Connection can streamline their adoption of AI. Connection’s Helix Center for Applied AI and Robotics offers a detailed pathway for manufacturers to tackle the complexities of AI integration.

This encompasses a range of services including advisory, data orchestration, infrastructure setup, model development, and application re-platforming, each crucial for applying AI effectively in real-world settings.

  1. Advisory Functions: Connection deeply understands the specific challenges and goals within the manufacturing industry. By working closely with clients to grasp their business models, supply chains, and objectives, Connection evaluates the company’s readiness for AI and the maturity of its data ecosystem. This critical analysis ensures that AI initiatives are well-suited to each manufacturer's unique context, facilitating the implementation of AI solutions that genuinely align with business needs.
  2. Data Orchestration: At Connection, we emphasize the importance of a robust data strategy, helping manufacturers to organize, manage, and optimize their data assets. Our goal is to ensure that the data used for AI applications is accurate, relevant, and aligned with business goals.

    We also encourage flexibility with data. Since not all data is pristine, we help manufacturers to navigate the challenges of dealing with diverse datasets, including unstructured and dirty data, and provide solutions to derive meaningful insights.
  3. Infrastructure Design and Optimization: Connection proactively designs and optimizes the necessary infrastructure for AI applications, from cloud solutions to edge computing, ensuring it meets the specific needs of the manufacturing sector without unnecessary expenditure.
  4. Model Development: Connection supports the continuous improvement of AI through MLOps and DataOps, focusing on operational support for AI implementations.
  5. Application Re-platforming: Connection assists manufacturers in re-platforming applications, a process aimed at making applications smarter and more responsive. This approach involves transforming applications to support intelligent actions, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness across manufacturing processes.

Seizing the AI Opportunity in Manufacturing with Connection

The integration of AI into manufacturing is not just an opportunity—it is a necessity for those seeking to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. The journey is complex and requires a strategic approach, but the rewards—in terms of efficiency, innovation, and resilience—are substantial. By embracing AI, manufacturers can unlock new levels of performance and open the door to a future of limitless possibilities.

As we stand on the cusp of this AI-driven transformation, the question for manufacturers is not if they will adopt AI, but how quickly and effectively they can do so. The future of manufacturing is smart, connected, and AI-powered, and the time to embark on this journey is now. For more information and to get started on your journey with AI in manufacturing, visit our Helix Center for Applied AI and Robotics online today.

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TechSperience Episode 125: Navigating the AI... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-125-navigating-the-ai-revolution-in-manufacturing/ Feb 22, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/AI-Revolution-in-Manufacturing.jpg

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been nothing short of revolutionary for the manufacturing industry. From research and development to production, and even extending to aftermarket services, AI can drastically improve productivity, bolster quality control, and optimize supply chains in the industry.

However, adopting AI in manufacturing is not without its challenges and complexities. Join us as we navigate this evolving landscape, explore practical applications of AI for manufacturers, and uncover the business benefits it can bring.

Guests:

Ryan Spurr, Manufacturing Strategy Director at Connection

Jamal Khan, Chief Growth and Innovation Officer at Connection

Show Notes

00:00 Introduction
00:46 The Impact of AI in Manufacturing
03:01 Challenges in AI Adoption in Manufacturing
05:30 Unique Challenges in Manufacturing
08:22 Job Displacement in Manufacturing
09:40 Drivers for AI Adoption in Manufacturing
11:43 Factors Enabling AI Adoption
14:35 The Role of Data in AI Adoption
18:48 Applications of AI in Manufacturing
24:52 Use Cases and Workloads in AI
28:36 The Power of Camera Vision in Manufacturing
34:06 The Importance of Supply Chain Twins
38:41 The Role of Synthetic Data in AI
45:25 Connection's Approach to AI in Manufacturing
50:15 Six Areas of Focus
50:45 Partnerships and Technology Stacks
51:08 Opportunity and Feasible Use Cases
51:36 Limited Sampling of Use Cases
52:03 Learning More about AI in Manufacturing
52:17 Closing Remarks

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Top 8 Benefits of Backup and Recovery as a... https://community.connection.com/top-8-benefits-of-backup-and-recovery-as-a-service/ Feb 22, 2024 Becky Lawlor https://community.connection.com/author/becky-lawlor/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2510980-HPEGreenlake-Benefits-of-BRaaS-Blog.jpg

As businesses navigate an increasingly interconnected and data-driven landscape, the stakes for data loss or unauthorized access have never been higher. Cyber threats, accidental deletions, hardware failures, and unforeseen disasters pose significant risks to the integrity of digital assets. Recognizing this, organizations are turning to backup and recovery as a service (BRaaS) as a proactive and strategic measure to fortify their data against potential threats while ensuring a swift recovery.

Unlike traditional backup methods that often involve on-premises hardware and manual interventions, BRaaS leverages the scalability and flexibility of the cloud to offer a more streamlined and automated approach to data protection.

Here are the top advantages of pivoting to a BRaaS model for backup and recovery protection.

1. Cost-effectiveness

Traditional backup solutions often require substantial upfront investments in hardware infrastructure. In fact, 67% of enterprises using on-premises storage over-invest. BRaaS, being a cloud-based service, eliminates the need for organizations to invest in and maintain dedicated on-premises hardware and reduces capital expenditures, allowing businesses to allocate resources more efficiently and redirect funds toward strategic initiatives.

A pay-as-you-go BRaaS pricing model, such as HPE GreenLake offers, enables organizations to pay only for the resources they consume. This flexibility is particularly advantageous for businesses with fluctuating data storage needs. It not only gives these organizations the ability to scale BRaaS usage accordingly but also optimizes costs and avoids the inefficiencies associated with overprovisioning. In addition, this flexible, pay-as-you-go model can help prevent unnecessary resource allocation and promote energy efficiency.

2. Improved data security

BRaaS prioritizes data security through robust encryption mechanisms that safeguard data during both storage and transmission. Secure transmission protocols further enhance data protection, guaranteeing that data is transferred to and from the cloud infrastructure in a secure and encrypted manner. In addition, BRaaS providers, like HPE GreenLake, also adhere to rigorous security standards and certifications, assuring businesses that their data is handled in accordance with regulatory requirements.

3. Scalability

The scalable nature of BRaaS allows organizations to adapt to changing data storage requirements seamlessly. As data volumes grow or business needs evolve, organizations can easily scale their storage capacity without the need for extensive planning or infrastructure upgrades. This agile scalability ensures businesses can efficiently accommodate the dynamic nature of their data environment as well as their business environment—whether that’s expanding into new markets, introducing new applications, or undergoing organizational shifts.

4. Business continuity

Compared to traditional backup and recovery methods, BRaaS can minimize downtime in the face of data loss or disruptions. With rapid recovery options and efficient backup processes, organizations can swiftly restore critical data and applications, reducing the impact on business operations. This proactive approach to business continuity enhances resilience and safeguards against potential revenue loss associated with extended downtimes.

5. Accessibility and ease of use

In a business landscape where remote work is increasingly prevalent, the ability to access and manage backups from anywhere with an Internet connection is invaluable. BRaaS allows authorized personnel to retrieve critical data or initiate recovery processes without being physically present in the office. This remote accessibility not only enhances operational flexibility but also ensures that data management remains seamless regardless of the geographical location of key stakeholders.

Additionally, BRaaS platforms typically feature user-friendly interfaces designed for ease of use. Intuitive dashboards and tools simplify the management of backup and recovery processes, allowing even non-technical users to navigate and execute tasks efficiently. The emphasis on user experience contributes to a lower learning curve for personnel involved in data management, reducing the likelihood of errors and ensuring that organizations can leverage BRaaS to its full potential.

6. Automation and efficiency

Automation is a core feature of BRaaS, streamlining backup and recovery processes for enhanced efficiency. Automated scheduling, as mentioned earlier, ensures that backups occur at predetermined intervals without the need for manual intervention. This automation not only saves time but also reduces the risk of human error associated with manual processes. By automating routine tasks, BRaaS allows IT teams to focus on more strategic aspects of data management, fostering increased productivity and resource optimization.

BRaaS solutions that support hybrid cloud environments enable seamless integration and management of workloads across on-premises infrastructure and multiple public cloud platforms. For instance, HPE GreenLake’s hybrid approach to BRaaS delivers a unified and comprehensive solution that allows businesses to effectively assess their IT infrastructure needs and place workloads in the most efficient locations based on factors such as performance, cost, and compliance.

7. Simplified operations and management

BRaaS aims to simplify IT operations by handling the day-to-day management of infrastructure. This allows IT teams to focus on more strategic initiatives rather than routine tasks, enhancing overall operational efficiency. With end-to-end management services, such as HPE GreenLake offers, businesses can further improve operational efficiency by deploying on-premises, at the edge, or in the public cloud while maintaining control and visibility of their infrastructure and consumption experience across the entire infrastructure stack, including hardware, software, and services, both on-premises and in the cloud.

8. Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is gaining prominence across industries. Some BRaaS providers are adopting energy-efficient technologies and optimizing resource usage to reduce the environmental impact of data storage and management.

HPE, for example, has been working towards making its data centers more environmentally friendly. In addition, HPE GreenLake provides an on-premises cloud experience, allowing organizations to enjoy the benefits of cloud computing without relying solely on external cloud services. This approach can lead to reduced data transfer and processing in external data centers, contributing to lower energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint.

A Better Way to Back Up and Recover Data

In a world where data is a cornerstone of business operations, the evolution of BRaaS aligns with the imperative of ensuring data security, adaptability, and environmental responsibility. It also offers a cost-effective, scalable, and efficient approach to data backup and recovery. As organizations continue to embrace digital transformation, the strategic adoption of BRaaS will play a crucial role in fortifying an organization’s resilience and contributing to a sustainable and secure digital future.

Connection’s cloud and data center services can help you find a BRaaS solution that will improve the resilience, scalability, and sustainability of your data environments. Reach out to your Account Team or contact us here for more information.

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TechSperience Episode 124: Leveraging the... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-124-leveraging-the-power-of-tidc-in-manufacturing/ Feb 14, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2486910-TIDC-Manufacturing-TechSperience-Solutions-FB-LI-SOCIAL-v01.jpg

Manufacturers demand better technology delivery.

In this podcast, we'll explore how Connection's Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC) can help manufacturing IT organizations invest in automation, tech modernization, and leverage our deep technology experience to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and free up it staff to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Ryan Spurr, Manufacturing Strategy Director at Connection

Mark Wulfhorst, Senior Director for the Solution Engineering Group at TIDC, Connection

Show Notes:

00:03 Introduction to Connections Technology Integration and Distribution Center

00:49 Challenges Faced by Manufacturing Customers

01:23 Disruptive Initiatives in Manufacturing

02:12 The Changing Expectations of IT

03:04 The Struggle to Hire Competent People

03:57 The Reality of IT Staffing in Manufacturing

05:30 The Increasing Demand for Better Technology Delivery

06:39 The Evolution of Customer Needs and TIDC Services

07:43 The Benefits of TIDC Services

08:57 The Impact of COVID on IT Delivery

11:43 The Transition to Windows 11

20:12 The Role of TIDC in IT Asset Disposal

22:05 The Engagement Process with TIDC

23:55 Conclusion and Contact Information

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Is Your Organization Getting the Most Use... https://community.connection.com/is-your-organization-getting-the-most-use-out-of-your-microsoft-contract/ Feb 14, 2024 Stephanie Bondhus https://community.connection.com/author/stephanie-bondhus/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2493676-MLO-BLOG.jpg

A common story we hear as consultants is that our clients aren’t ready to bring modern technology to their Microsoft contracts because they hardly have the time to deploy what is included in their current licensing. But that doesn’t stop Microsoft account teams from pushing increased capabilities (and cost) onto renewing contracts.

With Connection’s Microsoft Landscape Optimization (MLO) assessments, we can help you understand holistically what you already own, and then help to create deployment plans for your organization that get the most value from your licensing entitlements. In addition, we will analyze your spending on Microsoft over the duration of your contract—including identifying any changes made by you and/or Microsoft since your contract was signed. We do not shy away from digging deep into the licensing changes to ensure you understand your rights forward and backwards.

If you have trouble understanding or explaining your Microsoft licensing and entitlements, we can help. Our MLO Premium engagements give you a full and comprehensive view of your contracts, terms, rights, technology, overall spend, your usage in Microsoft 365, your usage and billing in Azure, and your use of Azure Hybrid Use Benefits—and all that might even help give you the confidence you need to walk into negotiations for your Microsoft contract renewal.

You can expect the following workshops in a Premium MLO assessment:

  • User Profiling: Identify and create profiles of each user group and their unique licensing needs.
  • Cloudstack Discovery: Learn about all the key features underneath the Microsoft 365 family umbrella—which ones you are currently using and which ones you are planning to deploy—and uncover the competing solutions that could be replaced with Microsoft technology at a cost savings.
  • Server and Cloud: Ensure your server environment is properly licensed under current rules, identify any opportunities to save on licensing in Azure with Hybrid Use Benefit, and review plans for eliminating any excess license coverage that is no longer needed.
  • Executive Summary: Compile all relevant details, pricing, and information into a single document that is easily understandable for internal presentations to executives and key decision-makers within your organization.

Recently, a teammate and I were able to help a client save $200,000 by introducing the Microsoft 365 Frontline plans for qualifying users and transitioning SQL Enterprise licensing to SQL Standard licensing covering individual virtual machines. During the MLO process, we uncovered that a large group of employees were using shared devices, thereby qualifying them for the much more affordable Frontline licensing. We also discovered they were still utilizing the unlimited virtualization rights of SQL Enterprise, but because of a recent reorganization and reduction, this was no longer the best financial option for them. After pricing out different scenarios using real time deployment data, we were able to transition them to SQL Standard licensing, saving them annual licensing fees.

Do you know exactly how you are utilizing your Microsoft contract? Is Microsoft 365 E5 the right license for all your users? We can help you answer all your questions with data and proof to get you exactly what you need and pay for only that. Reach out to your Connection Account Team or watch our vlog for more information.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r4gzVSQqrg
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Navigating Manufacturing Challenges with the... https://community.connection.com/navigating-manufacturing-challenges-with-the-tidc/ Feb 13, 2024 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2486910-TIDC-Manufacturing-Blog.jpg

Manufacturing teams require better technology delivery. They are being asked to manage costs, drive growth, and deliver operational excellence in a world full of evolving market challenges. Costs are increasing, supply chain disruptions are common, and technology is rapidly changing.

Adding to the complexity is an evolving workforce of distributed workers, high turnover, and a need to attract the right talent. It’s never been more important for manufacturing organizations to rethink their IT service delivery models and how they align to support business operations, growth, and workforce optimization.

Our Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC) can help manufacturing organizations invest in automation, technology modernization, and leverage our deep technology experience to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and free up IT staff to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Three Key Challenges in Manufacturing

Manufacturing IT teams face a multitude of challenges. Whether it’s dealing with disruptive initiatives, line of business expectations, or the struggle to hire and retain competent talent, the TIDC is well-equipped to assist.

1. Disruptive Initiatives: Central to a manufacturing organization’s growth strategy are disruptive initiatives, such as constructing new facilities, expanding existing ones, or securing new locations. These endeavors significantly impact IT organizations, facilities, and intersecting functions, often imposing a considerable burden on IT to ensure successful execution.

The TIDC plays a vital role in facilitating the seamless development of both facility and IT infrastructure. By providing essential support, The TIDC allows IT organizations to concentrate on meeting business objectives and optimizing operational efficiency.

2. Line of Business Expectations: There’s a shift in the expectations of IT. Workers need the right tools, software, and configurations promptly to enhance productivity. The days of waiting weeks for improperly configured technology are long gone. Manufacturing organizations need the right technology solutions, quick deployment, and ongoing support to meet employee expectations and stay agile.

The TIDC plays a crucial role in delivering the right tools at the right time, freeing up IT staff to focus on more strategic initiatives.

3. Talent Acquisition and Retention: The universal challenge of hiring and retaining skilled talent reverberates across industries, with manufacturing being no exception. An alarming number of companies struggle to secure qualified IT workers.

The right workforce is indispensable for successful business execution, spanning engineers, knowledge workers, and operational roles. Our TIDC steps in by providing the necessary technology solutions, skill sets, and processes to fortify IT teams. Collaborating with our TIDC enables manufacturing organizations to align their IT operations with expectations while focusing on attracting and retaining top-tier talent.

Meeting Manufacturing Challenges with the TIDC

With a recent expansion and investment in infrastructure to double our capacity, the TIDC has the capability to act as an extension of customers’ IT departments, offering a range of services, from provisioning and deployment to logistics and asset management.

These are some of the top tactical solutions that the TIDC currently provides manufacturers:

  1. Windows 11 Migration: With the end of life for Windows 10 approaching, the TIDC helps manufacturers navigate the migration to Windows 11 seamlessly. We can assist in analyzing hardware compatibility, provisioning, deployment, and security enhancements. By relying on the TIDC’s expertise, manufacturing organizations can ensure a smooth transition without disrupting their operations.
  1. Factory in a Box: The TIDC offers a unique solution known as "Factory in a Box." When a manufacturing organization requires equipment for a new facility, expansion, or refresh, the TIDC delivers everything pre-provisioned and ready to use. This includes laptops, desktops, tablets, printers, networking equipment, and more.

    Recognizing that people are manufacturers’ most important asset, especially in today’s tight labor market where manufacturers struggle to find qualified workers, it’s essential to meet employees’ high technological expectations. Whether your IT team delivers endpoints to new employees or replaces an existing device, it’s important to get technology right every time to ensure manufacturers can attract, retain, and optimize the productivity of their talent pool.

    Choosing Connection’s Factory in a Box solution guarantees that your equipment undergoes provisioning, testing, validation, and secure packaging before reaching your site. Opting for a single-source vendor ensures timely delivery, making all your products ready for implementation on the scheduled day. This minimizes downtime and decreases the need for hands-on work on-site. The elimination of installation and setup time not only reduces operational downtime and costs but also enables IT teams to concentrate on other critical tasks.
  1. Depot Services and IT Asset Disposal: The TIDC’s depot services help manufacturers minimize downtime by providing advanced exchange solutions. In case of equipment failures, the TIDC can quickly ship pre-provisioned replacement devices.

    Additionally, the TIDC offers IT asset disposal services, ensuring proper disposal or recycling of old equipment. Manufacturers can utilize these services to manage the end-of-life process efficiently and potentially receive credits towards new equipment.

Remove Stress from Manufacturing Technology Projects

Modern manufacturers must continually adapt, modernize, or transform their facilities to enhance operations. To do so, they rely on a wide array of IT components, including computers, mobility solutions, kiosks, digital signage, edge devices and data centers, networking infrastructure, cameras, IoT sensors, and more.

However, the challenges of staffing, disruptive initiatives, and the shift in line of business expectations can make it challenging to ensure that IT delivers technology punctually, at the right location, and within budget.

Our TIDC is dedicated to ensuring manufacturers experience seamless technology delivery. By leveraging the TIDC’s profound expertise, manufacturers can achieve cost reduction, efficiency improvement, and the liberation of IT staff for strategic initiatives.

Take that next step to improve how you deliver technology to your valued employees in support of major initiatives. Engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice today!

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Inside Look: Connection’s Technology... https://community.connection.com/inside-look-connections-technology-integration-and-distribution-center/ Jan 30, 2024 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2461239-InsideLook-TIDC-BLOG.jpg

Interested in becoming a Connection employee? You’ve come to the right place. Follow our Inside Look series to find out what it is like to work in different departments within our organization. You will learn about our open positions and hear from our department leaders on what they watch for in candidates during the interview process. This month we’re featuring our Technology Integration and Distribution Center.

What’s it like to work in Connection’s Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC)?

It’s great to be able to work in the tech industry and know you’re making a difference to companies in the various markets—not only local and national businesses, but also healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and the public sector, including education and state, local, and Federal government.

Connection is a fast-paced business servicing communities throughout North America and—in some accounts—worldwide. The warehouse work is consistently busy, so the day often flies by fast. The facilities are modern with breakrooms, outside social areas, training rooms, an electronic serviced cafeteria, strong physical and digital security, and an amazing culture.  

There is plenty of variety in the work offered across the different departments. Not only are there career opportunities for advancement in the company, but individuals are also able to continuously improve their skills—including handling of different equipment, working with supply chain programs like JD Edwards, and gaining experience in receiving and shipping. With these new skills, you can often move to Lead and Supervisor roles.

And if you’re more technically inclined, there is a whole other part of the operation that focuses on computer configuration, integration, and deployments to the North American markets. This is often referred to as Configuration Services and includes many technical roles, from entry-level configuration technicians through senior technicians to system engineers, project managers, and technical management. What is also exciting here is you can enter the business in the warehouse and work your way into a technical role, while the company assists you in obtaining industry recognized certifications. You may also choose to grow into sales or pre-sales solutions in other departments. 

Working in the Connection warehouse offers a lot to choose from, whether you’re an entry-level warehouse position, a new sales associate, an experienced supply chain international shipper, a quality control expert, a service or configuration technician, a project manager, or a system engineer. Connection’s TIDC has something to offer everyone!        

What is the structure of the department?

There are many departments within the TIDC. In general, there are Warehouse Operations, Quality Control, Inventory Control, Receiving, Shipping, Configuration, and Depot Services. Each of these departments offer career opportunities within the department, as well as movement and advancement to other departments. The departments are generally managed by a Director or Sr. Manager, who will usually have Supervisors or Leads running floor operations. The Directors report to a Vice President over different areas of Configuration and Operations. Also, within the Wilmington location, there are corporate department positions available, for example, entry-level Sales and International Shipping. 

What are the relationships between the TIDC and other areas of the company?

There are many “connections,” so to speak, from the distribution center to other areas of the company, including, in some cases, working directly with our customers and partners. To start with, the TIDC is closely aligned with Product Management, Corporate IT, Finance, and especially with Sales. We have several groups that serve on companywide committees like Safety, Security Compliance, and Facilities Management. In a few areas, we also work directly with our customers and Sales organizations. For example, Project Management works directly with Sales Support, and Service Delivery and our Configuration System Engineers interface with customers on setup. Some departments interface daily with individual departments: Inventory Control often communicates to Finance, and Shipping and Configuration work with Corporate IT platforms, and Human Resources stays in constant contact with all departments.   

The TIDC is hiring! What does it take to be successful in your department and at Connection?

To be successful, you need to offer a positive attitude, try your best, and show up willing to contribute every day. You’ll be working at a company that takes customer service seriously. We watch industry trends and listen to employee and customer feedback—so be prepared to listen, learn, and share.

If someone reading this was coming to interview tomorrow for a role in the TIDC, what interview tips would you give them? 

Candidates should come prepared to share what's important to them today and their aspirations for the future. We like to have an open, honest dialogue to understand your priorities and how we can help you achieve your goals.

What can new hires expect from joining the TIDC?

At first, it will seem like a lot of information coming at you all at once. Don’t worry; try your best, reach out when you have questions, and know the rest of your team is ready to help you learn and excel. Depending on the role, you will be offered training in different areas of operations or configuration. Expect that every day will be busy, often performing work that's similar day to day but also may shift depending on customer needs.  

Also, be sure to wear supportive, comfortable shoes because the building is quite large, and sometimes we have to hustle between other departments. We’ll also provide specific dress code recommendations that will best fit your new role.

And finally, why Connection?

Connection is a multi-billion-dollar, Fortune 1000 company celebrating 40 years of innovation in the fast-paced world of technology solutions and services. We are here to stay and grow. We care about our customers, our employees, our partners, and the changing markets. We invite you to come work for a company that offers competitive industry wages with dynamic opportunities and the room to grow your career in the direction that you choose. Stay local or set goals that may take you to other areas of the country. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a good chance we can help you achieve your career goals. 

Ready to take the next step?

Could you see yourself working at Connection or for our TIDC? We’re hiring! Keep an eye on our recruiting page and find your dream career! 

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How Connection Can Help You Bridge the IT... https://community.connection.com/how-connection-can-help-you-bridge-the-it-talent-gap/ Dec 28, 2023 Patrick Dja Konan https://community.connection.com/author/patrick-dja-konan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2446509-CNXN-Bridge-IT-Gap-BLOG.jpg

Information technology has become an indispensable part of our modern society, driving innovation, productivity, and economic growth. As businesses continue to rely heavily on technology for operations, the demand for IT talent remains high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology is projected to grow by 11% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Finding IT talent will continue to be a challenging task for many organizations, which is why we will explore how Connection also excels at helping companies across the country find and hire IT professionals.  

Leverage Our IT Expertise

As a national provider of IT solutions, Connection also offers staffing services, specializing in helping organizations across various industries find qualified IT professionals to hire. With a network of talent nationwide and a deep understanding of the IT industry, we offer tailored staffing solutions to meet the unique needs of customers. One of our key strengths is our expertise and knowledge of the IT industry, which enables us to truly understand our customers’ technical requirements and match candidates accordingly.

Get Access to an Extensive Network of IT Professionals

For over 30 years, we have built and maintained a vast talent pool of IT professionals with diverse skillsets ranging from helpdesk, developers, systems administrators, cybersecurity experts—all the way to CIOs. Our thorough screening and interview process ensures that hiring managers only review and interview top qualified candidates, saving time and effort in the hiring process.


Take Advantage of Our Flexible Staffing Solutions

Whether you are looking to hire an individual or build a team for a specific project or your IT department, we have various options for both temporary and long-term IT hiring needs:

  • Contract staffing: Get technical expertise for specific IT projects, backfill, or skill openings, available in 60-, 90-day, or more contracts.
  • Contract-to-hire Staffing: For potential permanent positions, we offer a 90-day contract-to-hire program. After 90 working days, you can hire on for no additional conversion fees. 
  • Direct Hire Placement: We offer two budget-friendly options:
    • 16% conversion fee based off the permanent salary offered, includes a 30-day guarantee. 
    • 18% conversion fee based off the permanent salary offered, includes a 90-day guarantee.
  • Payrolling services: Have you found and identified your own candidate, but do not have the approval or financial opening to hire on to your own payroll? With a small administrative fee, we can contract that person back to you.

Streamlined Hiring Process

As an IT partner, we take pride in delivering a seamless and efficient process for our customers. Our dedicated team of technical recruiters works closely with hiring managers to get a better understanding of both their technical and cultural environment, which enables us to fill openings quickly. Additionally, we ensure constant communication and coordination throughout the hiring process, making it hassle-free for our customers and candidates.

No Upfront Cost or Commitment

One of the benefits of working with us is the ability to review and interview our candidates without paying a fee or signing an agreement upfront. This way, you have the flexibility to expand your pool of applicants, go through your own interview process, and only sign our statement of work when you eventually decide to hire a candidate we’ve presented.

Connection offers an array of services including staffing solutions to help organizations hire IT professionals. With our industry expertise and dedication to helping companies solve IT challenges, we have become a one-stop shop and reliable IT partner to many organizations across the country. Our staffing services are designed to help bridge the gap between businesses and IT professionals. If you’re interested in learning more about Connection staffing services or have IT openings you are looking to fill, please reach out to your Account Team to schedule a brief call with our staffing team.

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Backup and Recovery Best Practices for Data... https://community.connection.com/backup-and-recovery-best-practices-for-data-integrity-verification/ Dec 27, 2023 Becky Lawlor https://community.connection.com/author/becky-lawlor/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2443621-HPE-CCM-DataIntegrity-BLOG.jpg

When it comes to data protection, the integrity of your data is a linchpin for the reliability and accuracy of your backup and recovery processes. Without rigorous data integrity verification, your organization risks encountering compromised data during recovery processes, which can lead to potential data loss, system downtime, and compromised business continuity. This article will cover how to conduct a comprehensive data integrity check to ensure you're taking a rigorous and proactive approach to maintaining the integrity of your data.

What Is Data Integrity?

Data integrity, in the context of backup and recovery, refers to the consistency and trustworthiness of data over its entire lifecycle. Hardware failures, including disk malfunctions and storage device errors, represent a significant threat to data integrity. These can result in corrupted or lost data. Software errors further compound the challenges of maintaining data integrity. Bugs, glitches, and software malfunctions can introduce inconsistencies or alter data unintentionally. Human errors, whether through accidental deletions, improper data manipulations, or misconfigurations can also threaten the integrity of your data, as can cyber and ransomware attacks.

Recognizing the multifaceted nature of these threats to your data's integrity is crucial to being able to fortify your backup and recovery systems and ensure your data remains reliable.

Planning for Data Integrity Checks

When planning for data integrity checks, there are three key areas to consider:

  • The frequency of checks: Data integrity should be checked at regular intervals. Whether you check it daily, weekly, or monthly should be determined by the nature of the data and its criticality to organizational operations. It's best to strike a balance between minimizing operational disruptions and checking data frequently enough.
  • Key data components to check: Not all data requires the same level of scrutiny. To streamline the integrity-checking process, focus on the most critical data. This will help you allocate resources efficiently and prioritize the verification of the most vital information.
  • Specify acceptable levels of data integrity: Set criteria that data must meet during integrity checks to be deemed reliable. This helps establish clear benchmarks and provides a standard against which the integrity of data can be consistently assessed, whether measured through checksums, hashing algorithms, or other verification methods.

Executing Data Integrity Checks

When executing data integrity checks, you will want to conduct both automated integrity checks as well as manual checks. It's also important to document and log the results of your checks. Here's a deeper dive into each of these areas:

Automated Integrity Checks

Checksum and hashing are two types of automated checks you can conduct to ensure the accuracy of backup data. These methods involve generating unique identifiers of "checksums" for each piece of data using algorithms like MD5, SHA-256, or similar cryptographic hash functions. To conduct a checksum or hashing check, follow these steps:

  • Checksum verification: For each piece of data, generate a checksum using a reliable algorithm. Many file management tools and backup software automatically compute checksums during data storage. During the integrity check, be sure to recalculate the checksum for the current data and compare them against the originally generated checksums. Any discrepancies indicate potential data corruption.
  • Hashing verification: Similar to checksums, generate cryptographic hashes (MD5, SHA-256, etc.) for each data block or file in the backup. Then, recalculate the hashes during the integrity check and compare them with the originally generated hashes. Differences suggest data tampering or corruption.

Manual Verification

To manually verify data, you will need to select representative samples of the data for detailed inspection. These can be randomly or strategically selected subsets of data. You also want to ensure that the samples cover a variety of file types and sizes. Manually inspect the content of the selected files by checking the file structure, headers, and content consistency to verify that it matches the expected information. Then, cross-reference this data with the source data and carefully document any discrepancies, missing files, or alterations.

Log and Document Results

Maintaining detailed logs is important, so be sure to record the results of both automated and manual verification processes. Include information on checksums, hashes, and any identified discrepancies. If you find discrepancies, document the steps taken to address them. This documentation aids in post-incident analysis and process improvement.

Responding to Data Integrity Issues

If a data integrity check identifies discrepancies or potential data integrity issues, the first step is to isolate the compromised data. To do this, you need to determine the extent of the problem and isolate the affected files or datasets.

Once the compromised data is isolated, you need to initiate recovery procedures. This may involve restoring data from unaffected backups that have passed integrity checks. The use of a tiered backup system, where multiple versions of data are stored at different intervals, can be instrumental in ensuring that clean and uncorrupted copies are readily available for recovery. Implementing redundancy and failover mechanisms also adds an extra layer of protection, allowing for a seamless transition to alternative data sources in the event of an integrity issue.

It is also crucial to investigate the root cause of the integrity issues. Start by analyzing logs, error reports, and the sequence of events leading up to the identification of discrepancies. If you can understand whether the issue originated from hardware failures, software glitches, human errors, or malicious activities, then you can implement the appropriate targeted preventive measures and better fortify your data for the future.

Following three key steps—isolating compromised data, swiftly recovering data from clean backups, and investigating the root cause—ensures the restoration of reliable data and contributes to better long-term data protection strategies.

Continuous Improvement

It's important to learn from your data integrity checks and use that knowledge to enhance your data management and protection policies. To continuously learn and improve, follow these three steps:

  • Analyze the results of any integrity check: Look for patterns, recurring issues, or areas for improvement. For instance, if certain types of data consistently show integrity issues, it may mean you need to conduct a closer examination of your storage or handling processes for those specific data types.
  • Update your data integrity policies: As technology evolves and data management requirements change, you'll need to adapt your policies to address emerging challenges. Revisit the frequency of integrity checks, refine the selection of data components to check, and adjust acceptable levels of data integrity based on evolving industry standards and organizational needs.
  • Implement preventative measures: A proactive approach is always the best approach. Based on insights from your integrity checks, you may need to upgrade hardware components, enhance security measures to prevent malicious activities, or implement additional redundancy in your backup systems. Continuous improvement in preventative measures contributes to a more resilient data management infrastructure, reduces the likelihood of data integrity issues, and enhances overall system reliability.

Make Data Integrity Checks a Priority

The diligent execution of data integrity checks isn't merely a technical requirement but a strategic imperative for your backup and recovery strategy and systems. The importance of maintaining trustworthy and reliable backup data cannot be overstated. However, maintaining data integrity is an iterative process requiring constant adaptation and refinement. Frequent, comprehensive data integrity checks ensure a resilient data management culture that can keep pace with the evolving demands of data management and protection.

If you need help with data integrity checks or your backup and recovery strategy, Connection’s cloud and data center services can help. Reach out to your Account Team for more information.

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TechSperience Episode 123: Migrating to... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-123-migrating-to-windows-11-to-boost-productivity-with-ai/ Dec 23, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2407125-TechSperience-MigratingToWindows11-16x9-1.jpg

The pace of work has increased exponentially—along with the crush of data, information, and always-on communications. People are struggling to shoulder the weight of it all, while business leaders feel pressure to increase productivity amid economic uncertainty.

New Windows 11 Pro devices are well-positioned to tackle these challenges and accelerate workflows and collaboration with experiences that elevate the potential of everyone on your team. 

In this podcast, we'll discuss what the move to Windows 11 Pro devices can do for you and your users. With simple deployment and advanced security protection, the time to upgrade to Windows 11 is now. 

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Dan Ortiz, Director of Center of Excellence Workspace Transformation Solutions at Connection

Rob McGilvrey, Americas Specialist for Windows Pro & Modern Endpoints at Microsoft

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Apple’s Commitment to Security: A Deep... https://community.connection.com/apples-commitment-to-security-a-deep-dive-into-mac-hardware-and-software-integration/ Dec 21, 2023 Chris Roux https://community.connection.com/author/chris-roux/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2456721-Apple-Commitment-Security-BLOG.jpg

I’ve always been intrigued by Apple’s commitment to creating a seamless user experience while prioritizing advanced security measures. In this article, we’ll explore how Apple achieves this delicate balance by delving into the integration of Mac hardware and software, emphasizing the technologies that work together to enhance security, protect user data, and elevate the overall user experience.

The Foundation of Security at Apple

Apple asserts that the company is at the forefront of providing the most advanced security in personal computers. The foundation of this claim lies in the intricate design of Mac hardware and software, working in harmony to ensure the security, safety, and seamless operation of applications.

Despite historical beliefs that there is a tradeoff between security and user experience, Apple contends that both can coexist. They emphasize securing products by design while simultaneously enhancing the user experience. For enterprise customers, considerations extend to the management needs of IT and security teams.

Evolution of Enterprise Features

Building from the success of iPhone, Apple marked a pivotal moment by offering an opportunity to redefine what it means to be secured by design. Security principles were implemented, eliminating barriers through features like VPN, 802.1X security, encryption, remote wipe management capabilities, and deployment technologies.

Apple’s commitment to the enterprise is evident in the continuous addition of new features to make Mac the preferred platform for businesses. This approach ensures that Mac products seamlessly integrate between hardware and software, offering a powerful ecosystem of applications for intuitive use.

Mac security has evolved in many ways, from the introduction of mobile device management a decade ago to the integration of system integrity protection, hardware features like Touch ID, and the recent transition to Apple Silicon. In addition, the latest release of macOS Sonoma brings additional enterprise security features.

Security Features in Action

Mac security emphasizes hardware-software-service integration for maximum security. Apple Silicon is secure by design, emphasizing memory protection, data protection, secure boot, and the secure enclave. It details the importance of software updates, rapid security response, and new enforcement methods introduced with macOS Sonoma. The built-in encryption, firewall, and data protection on Apple Silicon ensures that data remains secure on disk. Apple’s approach eliminates the need for additional encryption software, providing a robust solution for protecting data at rest. This underscores the interconnectedness of security and management in Apple’s approach.

Apple Business Manager and Managed Apple IDs

Apple Business Manager, Mobile Device Management (MDM), and endpoint security APIs are how organizations can manage and enforce security policies effectively. Businesses use Apple Business Manager as a portal for device management, volume app purchases, and the creation of managed app IDs. Managed Apple IDs give access to iCloud services and new management controls for login and available services. MDM enables over-the-air configuration of settings, security features, and device management. This gives the ability to manage devices with a light touch, ensuring security without disabling functionality.

In addition, there is endpoint security API which allows third-party developers to build applications that can access security data and enforce security policies. This feature ensures that organizations can integrate Mac security with their existing management solutions.

A Secure Future with Mac

To wrap up, we’ve discussed the key takeaways of Apple’s commitment to security, emphasizing the integration of Mac hardware and software, the evolution of security features, real-world impacts on organizations, and the future of secure computing with Mac. Apple’s seamless blend of security and user experience sets the stage for a secure future for individuals and businesses relying on Apple’s innovative products.

Connect with Us

Technology can make or break business success. Having a partner like Connection by your side is invaluable. We go beyond providing hardware and services by empowering your organization to thrive in the digital age.

Whether you’re facing skill gaps in your IT department, need assistance with a complex deployment, or simply want to ensure your technology investments are delivering maximum value, Connection is here to calm the confusion of IT. Our mission is to become your IT department’s IT department, so your organization can fully embrace the benefits of Apple’s modernized deployment strategies and succeed in the hybrid work era. Embrace the future of IT with confidence, supported by a partner you can trust.

To learn more about how we can help you close skill gaps and elevate your IT capabilities, visit Connection’s Apple Practice or reach out to your dedicated Connection Account Team today.

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TechSperience Episode 122: Transforming... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-122-transforming-retail-through-the-power-of-ai/ Dec 20, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/AI-Retail-Podcast-Image.jpg

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly prominent in the retail landscape. Discover how AI is reshaping the retail landscape, from enhancing customer experiences and optimizing supply chains to boosting employee engagement.

Join us as we explore practical applications of AI for retailers and uncover the business benefits it can bring.

Guests:

Brian Gallagher, Retail Strategy Director at Connection

Jamal Khan, Chief Growth and Innovation Officer at Connection

Show Notes:

00:01 Introduction and Overview

02:55 The Evolution of AI Technology

05:43 The Impact of AI on Retail

09:01 The Challenges and Opportunities of AI in Retail

11:58 The Role of AI in Personalized Shopping Experiences and Inventory Management

14:35 The Importance of Data in AI and the Role of AI in Dynamic Pricing

17:02 The Future of Retail with AI and the Impact of AI on Customer Experience

21:10 The Challenges of Data Collection in AI

24:21 The Future of Retail Storefronts with AI

26:44 The Role of AI in Employee Productivity and Enhancing Retail Employee Experience

27:54 AI in Supply Chain Optimization and Sustainability

29:06 Ethical Considerations in AI Implementation

30:45 The Importance of a Common Purpose in AI Integration

32:30 Starting the AI Journey in Retail

34:06 Choosing the Right AI Partner and the Three Stages of AI Adoption

38:32 The AI Ecosystem and its Impact on Retail

40:14 Getting Ready for AI in Retail

42:34 Connection's Approach to AI in Retail

49:41 Final Thoughts on AI in Retail

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Transforming Retail Through the Power of AI https://community.connection.com/transforming-retail-through-the-power-of-ai/ Dec 19, 2023 Jamal Khan https://community.connection.com/author/jamal-khan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2433474-AI-in-Retail-BLOG.jpg

Over the last decade, AI has emerged as a transformative tool, revolutionizing the retail industry and propelling it into the digital age. Breakthroughs in technologies like the transformer neural network, GPU processing, and the democratization of tool sets have paved the way for unprecedented progress.

Within the retail sector, these advancements are influencing everything from inventory management to customer experiences to employee engagement. AI is boosting efficiency, innovation, and business profitability, solidifying it as an indispensable asset for retailers.

Unleashing the Potential: How AI is Transforming Retail

AI is driving a multifaceted transformation in the retail industry, contributing to such factors as: more personalized customer experiences, streamlined inventory management, increased employee engagement, and real-time dynamic pricing.

Customer-Centric Evolution: Understanding and Meeting Consumer Needs

In a market now predominantly shaped by digitally native Gen Z and millennials, the demand for personalized and immersive shopping experiences has surged. Acting as the driving force behind these bespoke interactions, AI can intelligently predict future preferences and seamlessly recommends products based on historical purchases. By integrating AI technologies, retailers can access vast datasets and offer tailored recommendations and experiences that transcend traditional boundaries.

AI is also helping to reshape consumer expectations from mere transactions to immersive lifestyle experiences. This shift can be seen both online and in physical stores, with innovative features such as augmented reality in fitting rooms and interactive displays powered by intelligent algorithms. These advancements mark a departure from the conventional, offering consumers an enriched and personalized journey through the shopping experience.

Inventory Management: A Digital Overhaul

AI has ushered in a revolutionary era in inventory management, fundamentally transforming what was once a labor-intensive and error-prone task into a streamlined and precise operation. The integration of AI brings predictive analytics, demand forecasting, and real-time data processing to the forefront, ensuring that store shelves are consistently stocked with the right products at the right time. This level of precision not only minimizes the risk of stockouts but also maximizes sales opportunities, contributing to enhanced operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The predictive capabilities of AI play a pivotal role in reshaping inventory strategies. Retailers can leverage historical data, consumer trends, and external factors to forecast demand accurately. This enables businesses to optimize stock levels, minimizing overstock and understock situations.

Real-time data processing adds an additional layer of agility, allowing retailers to quickly adapt to fluctuations in consumer preferences or unexpected market dynamics. As a result, AI-driven inventory management not only reduces waste but also fosters a more responsive and adaptable retail ecosystem.

Employee Empowerment: Beyond Customer Interactions

While AI is enhancing customer experiences, its impact on employee empowerment is equally significant. From optimizing workflow processes to providing valuable insights, AI contributes to a positive and purpose-driven work environment. The focus extends beyond attracting and retaining talent to ensuring that employees are equipped with the tools and insights needed to excel in their roles.

AI-driven solutions contribute to streamlining operational tasks, enabling employees to focus on higher-value activities that require human ingenuity. This shift in focus allows employees to engage more meaningfully with customers, leveraging AI as a support mechanism rather than a replacement.

By fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, AI empowers employees to navigate the evolving retail landscape with confidence, contributing to increased job satisfaction and overall productivity.

Dynamic Pricing: Real-Time Decision-Making for Increased Profitability

Dynamic pricing, a cornerstone of retail strategy, has undergone a transformative shift with the integration of AI. The traditional challenges retailers faced in establishing real-time dynamic pricing have been significantly mitigated through the capabilities of AI algorithms. These sophisticated algorithms delve into intricate market trends, competitor pricing strategies, and nuanced consumer behaviors, providing retailers with a comprehensive understanding of the pricing landscape.

The real-time analysis and adaptation enabled by AI in dynamic pricing empower retailers to make informed and strategic decisions efficiently. By continuously processing vast amounts of data, AI algorithms can identify optimal pricing points, helping retailers strike a balance between competitiveness and profitability. This not only enhances the retailer's ability to respond to market dynamics promptly but also contributes to the overall improvement of the bottom line.

Navigating the Implementation of AI in Retail

Embarking on your AI journey requires a mindful approach to ethical considerations and successful cross-collaboration. Connection stands ready to assist retailers with crucial aspects such as advisory functions, data orchestration, infrastructure design and optimization, and application re-platforming.

Ethical Considerations

As the retail landscape embraces AI, ethical considerations come to the forefront. Ensuring privacy, addressing concerns related to facial recognition, and mitigating algorithmic bias are critical aspects of responsible AI implementation.

Retailers must navigate these challenges to build trust with their customers and maintain ethical standards in the use of AI technologies. By doing so, retailers not only uphold ethical standards but also strengthen customer trust, positioning themselves as responsible stewards of AI technologies in the dynamic realm of retail.

Collaboration for Success: Cross-Functional Teams and Future Preparedness

Achieving success in AI implementation within the retail sector necessitates a collaborative and cross-functional approach. The formation of cross-functional teams emerges as a critical factor, uniting various departments such as IT, marketing, supply chain, and HR. These teams play a pivotal role in aligning strategies, fostering communication, and mitigating the risk of operational silos.

Preparing for the AI-driven future involves a dual focus on both long-term transformative strategies and short-term wins through tactical solutions. Long-term strategies encompass the fundamental transformation of business processes, organizational structures, and customer engagement models. This involves a strategic shift towards becoming a data-driven business, reimagining supply chain dynamics, and optimizing customer experiences through intelligent AI applications.

Simultaneously, pursuing short-term wins through tactical solutions is crucial for immediate impact and demonstrating the tangible benefits of AI integration. These tactical solutions can include targeted AI applications that address specific pain points within the retail operations. Whether it's optimizing inventory management, enhancing customer interactions, or streamlining HR processes, tactical solutions provide retailers with quick wins that showcase the value and efficiency gains of AI.

This collaborative strategy empowers retailers to stay ahead of the curve, embracing innovation, and delivering enhanced value to both their internal operations and the end customer experience.

The Connection Approach to AI in Retail

The Connection approach to AI in retail encompasses several key pillars, each addressing different aspects to ensure a comprehensive and effective integration of AI technologies. These pillars include:

1. Advisory Functions: Our advisory approach involves understanding the specific industry vertical, such as retail, in depth. This includes knowledge of the unique challenges, processes, and goals within the retail sector. We work closely with retail clients to understand their business models, supply chains, customer engagement strategies, and overall objectives. This understanding is crucial for tailoring AI solutions that align with our clients’ business.

2. Data Orchestration: At Connection, we emphasize the importance of a robust data strategy, helping retailers to organize, manage, and optimize their data assets. Our goal is to ensure that the data used for AI applications is accurate, relevant, and aligned with business goals.

We also encourage flexibility with data. Since not all data is pristine, we help retailers to navigate the challenges of dealing with diverse datasets, including unstructured and dirty data, and provides solutions to derive meaningful insights.

3. Infrastructure Design and Optimization: Connection takes a proactive role in establishing the essential infrastructure supporting AI applications before the initiation of AI initiatives. This involves a comprehensive approach ranging from cloud solutions to edge computing, aligning the infrastructure with the unique requirements of the retail sector.

Recognizing concerns about overspending, we also focus on designing infrastructure that is not only technologically advanced but also cost-efficient, maximizing the value derived from AI investments.

4. Application Re-Platforming (Kinetic Bridging): Connection guides retailers in evaluating and transforming their applications. The focus is on making applications “smart,” enabling them to generate and consume intelligence. This includes reimagining applications for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Kinetic bridging is a term we use that describes the process of transforming applications to support kinetic actions. This can include actions at the manufacturing level, in-store interactions, and more. The goal is to enhance the responsiveness and intelligence of applications across the retail ecosystem.

These components collectively form our strategy to facilitate the successful integration of AI in the retail sector. By combining industry-specific advisory services, data optimization, infrastructure design, and application re-platforming, we aim to empower retailers to harness the full potential of AI for innovation, efficiency, and competitiveness.

The Future of Retail: Embracing the AI Revolution

The power of AI is indisputably transforming retail. From reshaping customer experiences to revolutionizing inventory management to empowering employees, AI has become a cornerstone of success in the digital age. The imperative for retailers is clear: embrace AI, navigate its challenges responsibly, and forge a path toward a future where innovation and efficiency redefine the retail landscape. Engage Connection’s Retail Practice to get started!

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Navigating the Cyber Landscape with... https://community.connection.com/navigating-the-cyber-landscape-with-microsoft-staying-ahead-of-modern-cybersecurity-threats/ Dec 14, 2023 Stephen Nardone https://community.connection.com/author/stephen-nardone/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2425182-Microsoft-Roundtable-BLOG-1.jpg

As the digital domain faces new and more threatening challenges, defenders are being driven to innovate and collaborate more closely than ever. Cybersecurity is a defining challenge of our time. Organizations of every size across every industry around the globe feel the urgency and pressure of protecting and defending against increasingly sophisticated attacks.

Watch Connection’s Cybersecurity Practice and Microsoft as they discuss the evolving cyber threat landscape, utilization of emergent technologies, and the importance of collaborative defense. Discussion topics will include cyber hygiene, multi-factor authentication, zero-trust strategies, and artificial intelligence.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests:  

Jean-Francois Gilbert - Senior Security Technology Specialist, Microsoft

Stephen Nardone - Senior Director, Security and Network Solutions Center, Connection

To listen to the recording, register here.

The Escalating Threat Landscape

Cybersecurity has emerged as a critical concern for businesses of all sizes. According to Microsoft's 2023 Digital Defense report, a staggering 4,000 attacks per second underscore the severity of the challenge organizations are currently navigating. The surge in cyberattacks, coupled with the advancing tactics of cybercriminals, creates an unprecedented challenge for organizations striving to safeguard their data and systems.

Several factors contribute to the rise in cyber threats, including the proliferation of Internet-connected devices, the exploitation of vulnerabilities by cybercriminals, and the increase in social engineering attacks. These elements collectively contribute to the complex cybersecurity landscape faced by organizations. However, strategic updates in processes, people, and technology can effectively combat these challenges and fortify cybersecurity defenses.

Current Cybersecurity Challenges

The increasing volume of data breaches and cyberattacks can be attributed to several challenges, including:

Cybercriminals’ Evolving Tactics and Techniques

Cybercriminals’ evolving tactics have intensified the challenge of combating cyber threats. Their increased sophistication, lower entry barriers, and adaptation of advanced technologies make it challenging for traditional security measures to keep pace. 

Techniques such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are not only being employed by defenders, but are also harnessed by malicious actors to refine their attacks. This cat-and-mouse game complicates the security landscape, requiring constant vigilance and innovative approaches to stay ahead.

Ransomware Attacks Stemming from Unmanaged Devices

The cybersecurity landscape has seen a significant increase in both the frequency and sophistication of ransomware attacks, posing substantial risks to organizations of all sizes. The Digital Defense report emphasized the rise of ransomware attacks originating from unmanaged devices. This challenges the prevailing notion that only larger organizations bear the brunt of such attacks.

Organizations, regardless of their size, are now potential targets for malicious activities. The increased focus on unmanaged devices highlights the importance of robust cybersecurity measures across the board, as cyber threats evolve to target the broadest possible range of potential vulnerabilities.

Budget Constraints and Gaining Leadership Buy-in

Communicating the importance of security investments to executives is a crucial responsibility. Adopting a collaborative approach that involves engaging various stakeholders – including IT, Operations, HR professionals, and financial leaders – is essential for success.

Building credibility is also paramount. Before expecting approval for financial commitments, it is crucial to comprehend and communicate risks comprehensively across the spectrum. Prioritizing these risks and presenting a compelling case for budget allocation can be achieved through a nuanced understanding of the organization's risk landscape. This involves creating a clear connection between proposed initiatives and their impact on overall risk reduction or resource optimization. 

Translating this information into a cohesive executive summary facilitates effective communication with the board. This summary should encapsulate key issues, their critical importance, and actionable steps, enabling leadership to make informed decisions aligned with the organization’s security objectives.

The Human Element

The human element remains a critical vulnerability in cybersecurity. Despite technological advancements, social engineering attacks exploiting human psychology pose a significant risk. Employees, often unaware of the latest cyber threats, can inadvertently become entry points for cybercriminals.

A recent breach at a Las Vegas casino exposed these vulnerabilities. Cyber attackers, armed with information about an administrator obtained from LinkedIn, exploited this data during a call with the service desk, gaining unauthorized access to the network. Subsequently, they escalated privileges and disrupted numerous services, underscoring the real-world consequences of human-centric cybersecurity risks.

Combating Cybersecurity Threats

Practical strategies that encompass people, process, and technology are crucial in combating evolving cyber threats. These strategies include:

XDR (Extended Detection and Response)

One of the most advanced cybersecurity approaches today is XDR. XDR utilizes advanced machine learning and anomaly detection to provide a comprehensive view across various attack vectors, enhancing incident response and addressing threats efficiently. 

XDR essentially involves gaining visibility into incidents across endpoint identity, email collaboration tools, and staff applications. This allows for faster threat detection through the application of advanced machine learning and anomaly detection techniques, streamlining responses, including automatic attack disruption. Unlike traditional protection methods based on single Indicators of Compromise (IOC) for prevention and blocking, XDR utilizes a broader, more holistic approach. It relies on a subset of integrated products working together to offer enhanced visibility.

XDR takes an offensive-minded approach to provide defensive capabilities. A significant benefit is that it alleviates the challenge of human analysts processing thousands of events and prioritizing reactions. The XDR solution assists by consolidating policies and rules, collecting data from critical devices, and presenting analysts with prioritized information. This ensures that analysts can focus on addressing critical issues, such as potential escalation of privilege attacks or ransomware threats, rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of alerts.

XDR’s effectiveness can be seen in a real-life scenario of automatic attack disruption. By collecting signals from various products, XDR intervened in a production environment, successfully containing or disabling the affected device or user. This proactive action prevented the attack from progressing, highlighting the immense power of XDR in halting threats before they escalate. 

Machine Learning and AI

The integration of AI, especially within the Microsoft ecosystem, plays a crucial role in providing comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. Microsoft’s Security Copilot, utilizing AI, bridges the skills gap, automates routine tasks, and assists in cybersecurity education.

Microsoft’s Security Copilot

Supplementing human analysts, Security Copilot aids in interpreting scripts, building queries, and synthesizing information. It enhances efficiency, addresses cybersecurity challenges, and aligns with zero-trust principles.

Security Copilot’s impact is multifaceted. It excels in automating routine tasks, enabling human analysts to dedicate their efforts to more intricate threats, thereby accelerating response times and ensuring consistency in cybersecurity procedures. Its AI-driven capabilities boost efficiency and productivity by facilitating swift analysis, interpretation of scripts, and query-building for faster and more accurate incident response.

Beyond operational efficiency, Security Copilot becomes an integral component of cybersecurity education. It facilitates hands-on learning experiences, aiding analysts in interpreting scripts, querying databases, and synthesizing information in real-time. This continuous learning approach contributes significantly to the professional development of cybersecurity teams.

Collaboration for Collective Security

Collaboration across private sectors, public sectors, individuals, governments, and academia is indispensable for an effective cybersecurity strategy. Essential components of this collective security approach include fostering collaboration through information-sharing platforms like Infragard.

A critical element in this collaborative model is adopting a “zero-trust” mindset. This approach emphasizes a default stance of mistrust towards all entities. The key principle is to identify the data or resources in need of protection and limit access to authorized individuals. 

Additionally, cybersecurity maturity is vital, underlined by certifications such as the CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification). This certification, focusing on supply chain security, ensures that third-party entities engaged with private sector companies, especially those selling products to the government, adhere to robust processes for assessment. The CMMC certification plays a pivotal role in fortifying the overall cybersecurity posture by emphasizing supply chain security and stringent evaluations of third-party involvement.

The Basics Matter: Maintaining Cybersecurity Hygiene

Basic security hygiene remains highly effective, safeguarding against approximately 99% of cyber threats. Essential elements of this hygiene include maintaining comprehensive asset visibility, ensuring the continuous updating of devices, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), and steadfastly adhering to a zero-trust model.

To gauge the appropriateness of your management approach across the entire environment, consider a “Cybersecurity 101” perspective. This involves assessing whether all assets within your environment have designated owners and evaluating the existence of a robust program for consistently patching, configuring, and updating these assets. This foundational cybersecurity approach revolves around essential processes.

For instance, establishing a patch management system is crucial, emphasizing the need for a well-defined process rather than extravagant expenditures on technology. Achieving cybersecurity proficiency at the foundational level does not necessitate exorbitant investments; rather, it involves implementing effective processes, such as patch management, to bolster the overall security posture.

Navigating the Ever-evolving Landscape of Cyber Threats

To navigate the complex and ever-evolving cyber landscape effectively, organizations must adopt proactive measures such as XDR, machine learning, and AI, along with fostering increased collaboration. These elements form key components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

By prioritizing cybersecurity initiatives, collaborating with industry experts, and leveraging advanced technologies, organizations can substantially diminish risks and fortify the protection of their data and systems. For further insights and resources on security solutions, explore www.connection.com/cybersecurity to kickstart your organization’s journey.

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Manufacturing IT Trends for 2024: Embracing... https://community.connection.com/manufacturing-it-trends-for-2024-embracing-innovation-data-driven-insights-and-workforce-augmentation/ Dec 12, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2427094-Manufacturing-Trends-2024-Blog.jpg

The manufacturing industry is undergoing an accelerated transformation driven by technological advancements, cost management, evolving market demands, workforce challenges, and a growing emphasis on creating a competitive advantage. As we look toward 2024, several key trends are expected to shape the industry, fostering data-driven decision-making, innovation, productivity, and a more empowered and augmented workforce. While some are not new or cutting-edge, the following five trends are poised to significantly impact manufacturing as many organizations plan, pilot, and scale investments to create a smarter manufacturing organization and optimize their value stream.

1. Cybersecurity in Manufacturing: Safeguarding the Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem

Cybersecurity remains a top priority for manufacturers. In 2023, manufacturing remained the number one most attacked industry. The top result of cybersecurity incidents was extortion, accounting for 32% of all successful events and 70% of all ransomware incidents impacting the operational technology (OT) domain, not just traditional IT. The increasing integration of digital technologies into manufacturing processes, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), has expanded the attack surface, making manufacturers vulnerable to data breaches, ransomware attacks, and disruptions to critical operations. In 2024, we expect manufacturers to invest heavily in cybersecurity measures, including OT cybersecurity assessments, compliance, network segmentation, access control, employee training, and advanced threat detection and prevention solutions. These measures will protect valuable data, ensure operational continuity, obtain and keep cybersecurity insurance, and maintain a competitive edge.

2. Harnessing the Data-rich Environment: Unleashing the Power of Connectivity and Data Integration

Manufacturing facilities generate vast amounts of data from sensors, machinery, and production processes. To put this into perspective, there are an estimated 13 million employees in US manufacturing but an estimated 15 billion IoT and industrial control systems (ICS) devices in use by US manufacturers. This data holds immense potential for improving efficiency, optimizing operations, and making data-driven decisions. In 2024, we expect manufacturers investing in connectivity solutions and data integration platforms to collect, analyze, and visualize this data in real-time, such as IIoT software platforms that leave no device behind, unlock access to data, and integrate bi-directional communications across business systems, hybrid cloud, and the value stream. This will enable manufacturing employees to identify bottlenecks, predict potential failures, optimize production schedules, and make informed decisions to improve quality, reduce costs, and enhance overall performance. 

This same investment will also lay the vital groundwork necessary to unlock advanced solutions such as digital twins, simulation, and artificial intelligence, all of which rely upon timely, accurate, and trusted data orchestration.

3. Vision AI, Generative AI, and Digital Twins: Revolutionizing Operations

Artificial intelligence (AI) transforms manufacturing processes by enabling real-time data analysis, intelligent automation, and predictive maintenance. This topic is so pervasive we can’t escape it, given recent events evolving from large language models (LLMs) such as Generative AI. 

Vision AI, a subset of AI, utilizes computer vision techniques to analyze and interpret visual data from cameras and sensors. This technology is used for defect detection, product identification, quality control, and workplace safety. While machine vision solutions (e.g., automated optical inspection (AOI) machines) are not new, the expansion of the technology unlocks more opportunities, allowing organizations to infer at the edge of dozens of use cases atop the same camera stream, making today’s solutions more flexible and holistically inclusive.

Generative AI, or the branch of AI getting all the attention today, is being used to develop new product designs, optimize production processes, enable workforces to have quicker access to information, and personalize products for specific customer needs. This is an up-and-coming area of AI, especially as manufacturers learn how to leverage their trusted data sources to feed Generative AI and deliver highly feasible and beneficial use cases across various functions. 

Digital twins, virtual representations of physical assets or systems, are being employed to monitor equipment performance, predict potential failures, and optimize production schedules. Digital twins are being utilized to model and represent many aspects of manufacturing from complex supply chains, production factories and equipment, and even complex product platforms. With trusted data and orchestration, manufacturers can leverage digital twins to deliver new insights, enable employees to act and impact the organization, and reduce risk through scenario simulations.

Expect to see further integration of vision AI, generative AI, and digital twins into manufacturing operations, leading to improved quality control, increased efficiency, and enhanced product innovation.

4. Empowering the Workforce with Modern Tools: Workstations, Mobility, and Data

The manufacturing workforce faces a skills gap, as the demand for advanced technical skills in areas like robotics, automation, and data analytics continues to grow. To address this challenge and empower the workforce they do have, manufacturers are increasingly turning to modern workstations, mobility solutions, and data analytics tools. Modern workstations provide workers with the computing power and ergonomic design they need to perform their tasks efficiently. Combined with advances in silicon from companies like NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD, and certified solutions from partners like HPI, HPE, Dell, Lenovo, and others, today’s employees have powerful tools that accelerate high-performance computing and speed time to market.

Mobility solutions, such as tablets and wearable devices, enable workers to access critical information and collaborate seamlessly from anywhere on the factory floor, in the warehouse, or in the field. Data analytics tools provide insights into production processes, equipment performance, and worker productivity, enabling data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement. 

With ongoing workforce challenges, we must empower the manufacturing workforce we can attract and retain with modern tools and data-driven insights, leading to a more skilled, adaptable, and productive work environment.

5. Automation and Technology: Filling the Labor Gap and Enhancing Productivity

The manufacturing industry faces a labor shortage as skilled workers retire and the demand for specialized skills increases. In fact, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, of the 4 million manufacturing jobs needed by 2030, 2.1 million are expected to remain unfilled. To address this challenge, manufacturers are turning to automation and technology to augment their workforce and fill the labor gap. Automation is being used to perform repetitive, error-prone, and dangerous tasks, freeing up human workers to focus on more complex and value-added activities. Collaborative robots, or cobots, work alongside human workers, performing repetitive tasks and enhancing productivity. Technology is also being used to improve training and upskilling programs, enabling workers to acquire the skills they need to adapt to the changing manufacturing landscape, such as modern manufacturing execution or connected worker platforms that aim to provide improved work instruction, on-the-job training, and knowledge transfer to less experienced workers. As workforce gaps continue to pressure organizations’ ability to remain operational or support growth, expect to see a continued focus on automation and technology to augment the workforce, leading to a more efficient, productive, resilient, and adaptable manufacturing sector.

Let’s Prepare for the Future Together

At Connection, we understand that manufacturers are at different points in their smart manufacturing journey. Our Manufacturing Practice regularly works with manufacturing organizations to help them grow and improve their business through the application of domain experience and enabling technologies.

These five key trends represent just a glimpse into the exciting and transformative future of manufacturing. As technology continues to evolve and market demands shift, manufacturers that embrace innovation, harness the power of data, and empower their workforce will continue to evolve on the smart manufacturing journey, become more competitive, and create market differentiation in their subindustries.

Our Manufacturing Practice has a team of experts from trade, an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions, and expertise to assist IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skillsets with complementary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most. 

If you want to learn more about how we support our clients or the topics covered, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

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Bulk Up Security with SIEM and XDR https://community.connection.com/bulk-up-security-with-siem-and-xdr/ Dec 12, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2426700-Siem-XDR-Security-BLOG.jpg

Ransomware attacks have increased significantly due to the shifting remote and hybrid workforce. Your organization’s IT structure now spans across on-premises, hybrid-cloud, and multi-cloud environments. This gives security and IT operations staff a much larger area to protect as employees now access resources—and your network—from their company-issued or personal devices.

There are many variations of products available for deployment to safeguard against this broadened landscape of threats. While these tools can be immensely helpful in defending specific workloads, assets, and users, they can also complicate the challenging security environment by creating multiple silos for data and detection. Security teams need a better way of viewing threats across both multi-cloud and on-premises environments to help them detect and respond to incidents more quickly and better protect their resources. So, what is the next step in the changing landscape of security operations? The integration of cloud-native security information and management (SIEM) capabilities with extended detection and response (XDR).

What Is XDR?

An XDR platform helps organizations protect their digital ecosystem by collecting, correlating, and analyzing security measurements from endpoints, networks, applications, cloud workloads, and identity infrastructure. By consolidating the staggering amount of information the XDR platform is collecting, your organization’s security operations team can uncover threats and attacks at a much faster pace than having to track multiple products that have been siloed.

XDR enhances the operational efficiency of security operations teams by delivering comprehensive telemetry across integrated workloads. This technology minimizes the volume of alerts that security teams need to investigate by using correlation and behavioral analysis on consolidated threat data—thereby eliminating false positives and low-fidelity alerts. The tools integrated in an XDR system perform automated threat investigation and the remediation of compromised assets, often without requiring human intervention. Security teams can then employ the tailored recommendations provided by the virtual data room (VDR) tools to establish defenses against identified vulnerabilities.

Microsoft 365 Defender and Microsoft Defender for Cloud both live inside the Microsoft XDR solution and contribute to cross-domain security. Microsoft 365 Defender can block an array of threats at the network perimeter to prevent intrusions. It also gathers, correlates, and analyzes threat and alert data—from email, applications, endpoint devices, and identities—by leveraging a combination of artificial intelligence and automation.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud integrates cloud security posture management with cloud workload protection capabilities. This ensures security operations teams can safeguard against cloud threats while continuously evaluating their cloud environment. It alerts them to detected threats in cloud workloads and resources, provides customized recommendations for addressing these threats, and offers suggestions on fortifying cloud assets.

What Is SIEM?

SIEM—pronounced “sim”—is short for security information and event management. SIEM is a solution that detects, analyzes, and responds to security threats before they can harm organizations. SIEM combines security information management with security event management. While collecting data from a range of sources, SIEM identifies abnormal activity with real-time analysis and takes the proper action. With the advancement of AI integration, SIEM technology has evolved to make threat detection and incident responses faster and smarter.

Microsoft Sentinel—a cloud-native SIEM platform—distills extensive data into alerts regarding an organization's security stance by using a correlation engine and AI-driven behavioral analytics to swiftly address identified threats and incidents.

What Are the Benefits of Layering XDR on a SIEM Platform?

Integrating XDR data into SIEM allows organizations to achieve greater value from both technologies. A unified SIEM and XDR environment offers consolidated dashboards to monitor and manage threats seamlessly across multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud, and on-premises environments. This assimilation minimizes billions of pieces of signal data from XDR and various sources into thousands of alerts and tens of incidents, reducing alert fatigue and false positives.

The integration of SIEM and XDR also improves a security operations team’s capacity to conduct centralized, context-driven threat detection, analysis, and response. This step provides a better understanding of past incidents and streamlines proactive measures to prevent the recurrence of similar events.

What Are Microsoft’s SIEM and XDR Platforms?
How Do They Protect Your Environment?

Microsoft Sentinel is a cloud-native SIEM platform. It analyzes security and threat data from devices, applications, infrastructure, and users in the cloud and on-premises. With Microsoft Sentinel, organizations can detect threats they may have missed thanks to Sentinel’s advanced inline orchestration and automation capabilities that accelerate threat response and remediation.

Microsoft 365 Defender

Your Microsoft solution offers XDR for emails, identities, apps, and endpoints. With Microsoft 365 Defender, the following services are included and provide powerfully upgraded XDR capabilities:

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint analyzes behavior signals from within Windows 11 endpoint environments and detects threats that other tools might miss. This process involves employing cloud security analytics to interpret behavioral cues and converts them into useful insights and threat identifications.

Microsoft Defender for Office 365 safeguards against email threats like malicious links and attachments. Organizations can utilize it for shielding Microsoft Exchange environments from widespread, volume-based, and known attacks.

Microsoft Defender for Identity protects cloud-based Azure Active Directory environments from identity-based risks. It can be used to secure user identities and credentials in Active Directory as well as monitor users, entity behavior, and more.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps works across multiple cloud environments—such as virtual machines, containers, databases, and the Internet of things—as a cloud access security guard. It helps organizations protect against threats to and from cloud apps and services. Connection is here to help with your Microsoft Sentinel, Microsoft 365 Defender, and Microsoft Defender for Cloud security needs. Reach out to your Account Team to discuss your options today.

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Enhancing Patient Outcomes Through Secure,... https://community.connection.com/enhancing-patient-outcomes-through-secure-high-performance-networks-insights-from-healthcare-experts/ Dec 06, 2023 Stephen Nardone https://community.connection.com/author/stephen-nardone/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2417601-Healthcare-Roundtable-Blog.jpg

A new Ponemon report showed the average total cost for the most expensive healthcare cyberattack experienced was $4.4 million, including $1.1 million in lost productivity. As healthcare executives look to protect their organizations from malicious attacks, right-fit solutions are the key to success.

Join Connection’s Healthcare Practice, Professional Services experts, and Barracuda as they discuss imminent threats, cybersecurity program strategies, and technology that will shed light on today’s challenges and the direction healthcare customers should be prepared to take.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests:

Selby Philipose - Senior Solutions Architect, Barracuda

Jenna Renauld - Director, National Accounts, Barracuda

Jennifer Johnson - Director of Healthcare Strategy and Business Development, Connection

Stephen Nardone - Senior Director, Security and Network Solutions Center, Connection

To listen to the recording, register here.

The Changing Landscape of Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations have become more frequent and sophisticated. Ransomware attacks, in particular, have become more targeted and damaging, with cybercriminals realizing the potential for substantial ransom payouts and the disruption of patient care. 

In the face of the rising and ever-evolving threats, along with the increasing dependence on digital technologies, healthcare institutions find themselves confronted with a multitude of cybersecurity challenges. The positive news is that there are emerging solutions available to counter the cybersecurity threats that have impacted the healthcare industry. 

It is imperative for these institutions to take proactive measures in embracing these solutions. The protection of sensitive patient data and the assurance of uninterrupted patient care have become not merely challenges but absolute priorities.

Threats to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Over the past decade, the healthcare industry has undergone significant transformations, with the nature of threats and attack vectors evolving continuously. Today’s healthcare providers grapple with a diverse array of cybersecurity challenges, which include:

1. The Complexity of Healthcare: The healthcare ecosystem is complex and interconnected, involving a wide range of stakeholders, such as patients, providers, insurers, and government agencies. This complexity creates a web of vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.

Additionally, the prevalence of legacy systems and outdated technologies in healthcare, along with the human element, presents challenges in maintaining robust cybersecurity. The healthcare sector also deals with highly sensitive and valuable data, making it an enticing prospect for cybercriminals seeking financial gain or identity theft. The result is a perfect storm for cyberattacks.

2. Identity Abuse in Healthcare: Identity abuse has significantly exacerbated cybersecurity threats in the healthcare sector. Malicious actors exploit stolen identities to engage in extortion, coercion, unauthorized access to patient records, and privacy breaches. This not only erodes patient trust but also exposes sensitive data to potential misuse. 

3. Budget Constraints: Budget constraints in the healthcare sector often result in underinvestment in cybersecurity, leading to outdated technology, understaffed teams, and limited security training. Healthcare organizations may compromise on security solutions due to budget limitations, leaving them more vulnerable to evolving cyber threats. Additionally, budget constraints can hinder compliance with regulatory requirements, exposing healthcare institutions to potential penalties.

Organizations must strike a balance between financial considerations and robust security measures. Investing in the latest cybersecurity technologies, adequate staffing, and ongoing training is crucial to safeguard patient data and ensure the integrity of healthcare services.

4. Cybersecurity Skills Gap: The demand for cybersecurity professionals has surged in recent years, leaving the healthcare industry with a substantial shortage of skilled experts. In fact, the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals has reached 3.12 million, and the healthcare sector was identified as one of the industries most affected by this shortage.

Recent graduates of cybersecurity programs often lack practical experience in securing healthcare environments, highlighting the pressing need for programs to bridge this skills gap. Organizations like Barracuda can step in to offer security solutions that assist overburdened, understaffed, and underfunded healthcare institutions.

5. Supply Chain Issues: The healthcare supply chain plays a pivotal role in ensuring the delivery of vital services. Disruptions in the supply chain can have dire consequences for patient care. Healthcare organizations must remain vigilant in safeguarding their supply chains from cyberattacks and consider it an integral part of their broader attack surface. Utilizing security policies and technologies such as zero trust and extended detection and response (XDR) can help to secure third-party providers and ensure the safety of healthcare systems.

6. Regulations and Compliance: The healthcare industry has seen increased regulatory scrutiny and legal consequences for data breaches. Regulatory bodies are taking a more assertive stance in enforcing data security standards, and healthcare organizations are facing larger fines and legal actions for non-compliance. 

These changes have amplified the need for robust cybersecurity practices and a proactive approach to mitigating risks in the healthcare sector. As a result, healthcare organizations are investing more in cybersecurity solutions, workforce training, and partnerships with cybersecurity experts to adapt to these evolving challenges.

Healthcare organizations often rely on industry experts and consortiums to stay informed about changes in regulations. Collaborating with trusted partners like Barracuda helps healthcare institutions align with regulatory requirements and ensure the protection of patient data.

Strategies for Tackling Healthcare Cybersecurity Threats

To combat the cybersecurity challenges common in the healthcare industry today, consider the following strategies:

1. Shifting Security Mindset: Healthcare organizations must shift from a reactive to a proactive security mindset. This means focusing on threat prevention and early detection, rather than simply responding to incidents after they occur. It also requires viewing cybersecurity as a core aspect of patient care, rather than an IT concern.

2. Tools and Services for Network Security: Healthcare organizations must invest in the latest cybersecurity solutions and services to protect their networks, systems, and data. This includes implementing intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, access control systems, encryption, and vulnerability scanning solutions.

Additionally, network security services offer intrusion response capabilities, threat intelligence access, and the ability to monitor user and entity behavior. This allows healthcare organizations to stay ahead of evolving threats and respond swiftly to incidents. 

3. Early Detection and Rapid Response to Combat Ransomware: Early detection and rapid response are crucial elements in the battle against healthcare cybersecurity threats, particularly ransomware. Detecting these threats at an early stage is essential because it ensures that institutions can respond quickly and effectively to cyberattacks. These plans should include steps for identifying, containing, eradicating, and recovering from cyber incidents.

Early responses help to minimize downtime, ensuring that patient care services continue without significant interruptions. It speeds up the recovery process, enabling the restoration of data from backups, malware removal, and system security enhancements. Rapid response strategies also work to prevent ransom payments, as they focus on regaining control without capitulating to cybercriminal extortion.

4. AI for Protecting Personal Information: AI can help to safeguard personal information by employing behavior analysis to monitor network and user activities. That way it can quickly detect anomalies and potential threats, providing a proactive defense mechanism. It also excels in early threat detection by recognizing unusual patterns and activities that may indicate a security breach, enabling prompt response to mitigate potential damage.

Furthermore, AI contributes to data protection through encryption and decryption processes, securing sensitive patient information during storage and transmission. It enhances user authentication with multi-factor and biometric verification, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. AI is also adept at identifying phishing and social engineering attempts, bolstering the ability of healthcare employees to recognize and thwart potential threats. 

5. Cybersecurity Awareness and Training: Healthcare staff must be educated and trained on cybersecurity best practices, such as phishing awareness, password hygiene, and social engineering. Regular training keeps staff up to date with evolving threats and security measures, enabling them to adapt to new challenges. Training can also extend to third-party vendors and partners to mitigate external risks, ensuring a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity that safeguards sensitive patient data.

Cybersecurity training also ensures compliance with data protection regulations and cultivates a cybersecurity culture within the organization, making security a collective responsibility. By minimizing human errors and raising awareness about the risks of insider threats, training programs help prevent data breaches and unauthorized access from within the organization.

Securing the Health Sector: Adapting to Evolving Cyber Threats

Healthcare cybersecurity presents complex and dynamic challenges that demand proactive measures. Shifting the mindset around security, utilizing tools and services to combat ransomware, implementing AI for protecting personal information, and conducting robust cybersecurity awareness training are key components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. By collaborating with experts and leveraging advanced technologies, healthcare organizations can enhance their cybersecurity defenses and, in doing so, provide better and safer patient care. If your healthcare institution is interested in learning more about security solutions, visit www.connection.com/cybersecurity for additional resources to help you get started.

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Get Ready for More Cybersecurity Disclosures https://community.connection.com/get-ready-for-more-cybersecurity-disclosures/ Dec 06, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2423247-MFG-SEC-BLOG.jpg

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in cybersecurity events in manufacturing, both in the public domain and through our client engagements. This also bears out in industry statistics, with manufacturing becoming the #1 most attacked industry two years in a row1 and with a heavy focus of attacks targeting operational technology environments. Despite this increased visibility, many incidents remain hidden as disclosure is left to the organization, ransoms are quietly paid, or post-incident responses are handled without much public exposure. That is all about to change.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has adopted new rules to enhance and standardize disclosures regarding cybersecurity risk management, strategy, governance, and incident reporting by public companies. The new rules, which were adopted in November 2022 and became effective in November 2023, require public companies to:

  • Disclose material cybersecurity incidents on Form 8-K within four business days of determining that the incident is material
  • Disclose on an annual basis material information regarding their cybersecurity risk management, strategy, and governance in their annual reports on Form 10-K
  • Disclose whether and how their boards of directors oversee cybersecurity risk
  • Disclose management’s role and expertise in assessing and managing cybersecurity risk and implementing cybersecurity policies and procedures

The SEC’s cybersecurity rule is designed to improve investor access to information about how public companies manage cybersecurity risks. The SEC believes that this information is necessary to investors because cybersecurity incidents can have a significant impact on a company’s financial performance and position.

The First of Many

While this isn’t unique to manufacturing, with a rise in attacks in the industry—and the very first instance of SEC reporting on this subject coming from Clorox, a chemical manufacturer—you should expect more manufacturing companies to publicly report cybersecurity incidents and a generally alarming increase in the number of visible occurrences. In the first case, according to Clorox’s investor documentation, the company had incurred $24M in costs related to the cybersecurity incident according to their Form 8-K.2 In their Q1 2024 reporting, Clorox disclosed a 20% decline in net sales—or a financial impact of $356 million.3

Expect this level of transparency to become the new normal and shed light on the alarming trends in our trade—as well as bring about more insight into cybersecurity risks and the costs associated with successful incidents. The SEC regulations will improve the timeliness and quantitative impacts, and act as a lesson for all. 

Setting an Example

All publicly traded organizations have been put on notice. For private entities, while the regulatory requirements may not apply, don’t expect the standards it sets to stop there. I expect cybersecurity insurance providers and customers to set new contractual expectations on their suppliers, and the shift to this level of scrutiny and investment expectation to enhance the broad manufacturing complex’s security hygiene. 

The SEC rules were designed not only to inform investors but to help public companies improve their cybersecurity posture. By requiring companies to disclose their cybersecurity risk management, strategy, and governance, the SEC is encouraging companies to think critically about their cybersecurity programs and to make necessary investments in cybersecurity solution—a wise strategy for any manufacturing company regardless of their size or classification.

Let’s Make Manufacturing More Secure

At Connection, we understand that manufacturers have a diverse range of equipment and roles in their factories, and it’s essential to meet both cybersecurity best practices while ensuring a highly productive environment. This calls for solutions that meet the needs of IT, security, and operations.

Our Manufacturing Practice regularly works with manufacturing organizations to help them meet security requirements while ensuring operational excellence, providing a great workplace, and applying right-sized technology to enable better outcomes.

If your business is interested in our OT security solutions, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about available cybersecurity solutions, services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.



1 IBM, 2023, X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023
2 SEC, 2023, Commission File Number: 1-07151
3 Clorox Company, 2023, Clorox Reports Q1 Fiscal Year 2024 Results, Updates Outlook

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8 Must-ask Questions for a Robust Backup... https://community.connection.com/8-must-ask-questions-for-a-robust-backup-strategy/ Dec 05, 2023 Becky Lawlor https://community.connection.com/author/becky-lawlor/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2412812-AI-Backup-Recovery-BLOG2.jpg

Companies that don’t have a data backup and recovery strategy risk data loss with potentially catastrophic consequences to their businesses. They can face extended downtime, loss of revenue, and a decline in customer trust. However, organizations struggle to balance the necessities of data protection with the required time and budget investments.

Eighty-five percent of IT leaders say they predict their company’s data protection budgets will increase. Those who expect increases say budgets will likely grow by an average of 8.3% over the previous year’s spending.1 

To get the most out of your investments, it’s important to develop a backup and recovery strategy. Begin your planning by answering these eight questions. 

1: What kinds of data do we need to protect?
Important data to back up includes proprietary information, customer data, employee data, internal processes, finances and billing, communications, and project data. These types of data can reside within files, applications, databases, containers, servers, hardware, and elsewhere. Understanding and categorizing your data will help you establish your data backup and recovery priorities.

One of the challenges with data protection is that your data is likely to be in a variety of locations. The cloud can help by centralizing data and backups. Many aspects of organizational infrastructure are moving to the cloud because it’s easier to manage.

The ability to support modern work in the cloud is a top consideration for IT leaders and managers looking at enterprise backup solutions. For 15%, it’s the most important feature.1 Cloud-hosted environments can include software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Cloud solutions also offer the added benefit of protecting data from on-site disasters and attacks.

2: What is our recovery point objective?
Your recovery point objective (RPO) is the point at which you have backed up enough data to get back to business in case of an interruption. Once you know how much lost data is acceptable, you can decide whether you need to back up data daily, hourly, or at some other frequency.

You need this information to establish the correct frequency for your backups, so you don’t lose critical data in an incident. Without knowing your RPO, there could be an unacceptable gap between your last backup and the data loss.

3: What is our recovery time objective?
Your recovery time objective (RTO) is the amount of time it will take you to adequately recover data and systems to have your business up and running.

Without the ability to meet recovery time objectives, your company can’t get back to business and may suffer from revenue loss. Most IT and data center outages cost organizations more than $100,000.2 Extended downtime can also impact your productivity, customer satisfaction, bottom line, and long-term business success.

4: Is there data that requires high availability?
Depending on your industry, type of work, and types of data, you may have data that you want available to always access–or as close to that as possible. Many organizations strive for 99.9999% availability—a goal that's as close to perfect as many systems will get.

Your data protection plan will need to include redundancy safeguards as well as a limit or eliminate interruptions needed for backups. There are costs to achieving redundancy and high availability, so it doesn’t make financial sense for most organizations to designate all their data as high availability.

5: How long do we need to retain data?
Decide how long you want to keep backup data. Determine what is required by law for your industry and for your types of data. Establishing a documented internal retention policy will help you meet regulatory commitments and protect your company from liability.

While you want to save backups of all the data you need, unnecessary backups and copies take up valuable space and resources. However, if you hold on to data too long, you waste time and money by backing up unnecessary data.

6: Is our data clean?
Unclean data may be corrupted, duplicated, inaccurate, incomplete, or unnecessary. If you’re working with data that has errors, you’ll back up those errors. Analyzing bad data can lead to faulty decision-making, and duplicate data is a waste of storage.

You can scrub data by deleting or correcting it as necessary. This may mean clearing formatting, adding missing values, or replacing data with the last clean version.

7: Who will oversee data backup and recovery?
Determine who is responsible for backup and recovery processes. These responsibilities include backup scheduling, testing, compliance, management, and triggering the incident response plan. You can decide whether you want to do this internally or hire a service provider. Different cloud environments also operate under shared responsibility models. This means everyone from data service providers to IT managers to users share in the responsibilities for data. A backup as a service (BaaS) provider can take a lot of responsibility off the plate of busy IT teams.

8: What is immutable storage and do we need it?
Cyber criminals tried to attack 93% of backup repositories in their ransomware efforts, and they affected 75% of those.3 Immutable backup storage protects data that you can’t afford to lose in the case of ransomware, power outage, system failure, natural disaster, human error, power outages, or something else.

It provides a copy of data that cannot be altered, overwritten, or deleted, and should be one of your copies, according to the 3-2-1 rule. That standard means making sure you have three copies of data in two media types, one of which is offsite.

Formulating Your Backup and Recovery Strategy

By delving into these critical questions, you’re not only identifying potential data protection risks, but gaining a deeper understanding of your specific business needs. This will enable you to implement tailored processes and solutions that align with your overall needs and objectives.

As data volume increases and infrastructures become more complex, choosing a managed BaaS provider is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many companies. Industry experts predict the BaaS market will grow by $32.78 billion by 2028.4 Embracing BaaS and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) offerings can streamline data backup and recovery and liberate your team to focus on higher-level IT priorities. These services also improve cost efficiency because they scale with you—and you don’t pay for tools or storage you don’t need.

If you need help answering any of these questions or getting started on your backup and recovery strategy, Connection’s cloud and data center services can help. Reach out to your Account Team for more information.

Sources:
2 Uptime Institute, 2023,  Annual Outage Analysis 2023
4 TechNavio, 2023, Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) Market Analysis
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Microsoft Surface: Built to Bring Out the... https://community.connection.com/microsoft-surface-built-to-bring-out-the-best-of-windows-11/ Nov 29, 2023 Microsoft https://community.connection.com/author/microsoft-author/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2408921-Windows11-Surface-BLOG.jpg

Together, Surface and Windows 11 deliver a powerful combination of elegance and engineering. Microsoft’s product developers and usability experts collaborated closely to ensure Surface meets the demands of the modern workplace. The result connects people and their ideas together better, while delivering operational confidence thanks to its robust security and simple management.

A Host of Reasons Why Surface Makes Sense for Your Business

Surface devices are purposely designed for employee productivity—that’s certainly part of the equation. That design, however, takes employee experience seriously, resulting in hardware that workers are proud to carry around. They’re lightweight and thin. Surface and Windows 11 are designed to adapt to each other as the user changes postures, optimizing the experience as a tablet, as a laptop, as a desktop—effortlessly switching automatically between modes. When the Pen is removed, the Pen menu instantly opens.

The display and sound quality make it feel like everyone is in the same room when collaboration is needed. And Surface devices deliver power, performance, and connectivity to ensure employees are free to create and innovate anywhere and anytime.

The ways in which Surface delivers all this are too many to cover, but it’s worth taking a look at an example in more detail. Microsoft engineers wanted Surface to have even more processing power, but they also wanted to increase battery life and performance. On top of that, the designers wanted an even slimmer, lighter form factor.

They achieved it through subtle innovations. For example, when an employee switches to inking, the display automatically increases to 120Hz to provide an optimal experience with the haptic pen. As soon as the Surface is changed to a different mode, the display reverts to 60Hz to reduce battery load. For all these challenges, Surface’s 61% longer battery life on average1 keeps employees working longer between charges.

Explore how Surface's productivity innovations give employees the tools to succeed.

Surface Provides Proven Security

Enhanced employee productivity is just the beginning. Today there’s more and more pressure on IT to make flexible work possible, with increased cyber threats, tight budgets, and distributed employees adding to the challenges. It’s remarkable, then, that organizations report a 58% drop in security incidents with Windows 11 Pro devices.2

That’s made possible by the fact that Microsoft maintains all of the code in the Surface security stack, from firmware to the operating system to the cloud. It’s this unique advantage that creates a holistic approach to endpoint security. Surface devices run the most secure Windows operating system ever, and the CPUs have crypto-processor security measures built in. The combination of Windows 11 and Surface security innovations gives you unprecedented resilience.

Get more detail on how Surface and Windows 11 can help keep your employees and organization safe.

Surface Means Agility and Efficiency for Your IT Teams Too

The pressure on IT staff doesn’t stop with security. Deploying new hardware and maintaining it is a constant effort. Microsoft’s same innovative approach to usability and security is evident here as well: it’s easier than ever to deploy and manage Surface, resulting in 25% faster deployments and 80% fewer helpdesk calls.3

Those savings are thanks to Windows Autopilot, designed, engineered, and tested on Surface to provide a zero-touch deployment experience. Each Surface device arrives from the factory with Windows Autopilot already enabled. And management is easier than ever with Microsoft Intune, the single centralized solution for IT admins to self-serve, manage, and monitor all your Surface devices.*

All this is made possible because Surface has been engineered to work with Windows Autopilot in ways that both increase security and decrease management effort, allowing IT to fully manage Surface devices from Windows 11 down to firmware through a single cloud-based portal.

Boost your IT efficiency with a strategic endpoint management solution from Microsoft and Surface.

There’s more to the story about the innovations that make Surface and Windows 11 such a powerful combination. In coming posts, we’ll take a deeper look into more of the ways in which design and engineering challenges have resulted in extraordinary solutions. The results have produced Surface devices that in combination with the power of Windows 11 ensure employees are equipped to do their best work from anywhere, while providing robust security from chip to cloud and centralized device deployment and management to keep IT staff focused and productive as well.

Explore how Surface and Windows 11 can benefit your business.

*Software license required for some features. Sold separately.

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How to Effectively Leverage AI in Your Data... https://community.connection.com/how-to-effectively-leverage-ai-in-your-data-backup-and-recovery-processes/ Nov 28, 2023 Becky Lawlor https://community.connection.com/author/becky-lawlor/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2412812-AI-Backup-Recovery-BLOG.jpg

With businesses generating vast amounts of data daily, the challenge of effectively backing up and recovering this information is more difficult than ever. Lengthy downtimes and incomplete recovery are often the result. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies can help. More than a third (37%) of IT teams are incorporating AI into their tasks,1 and it’s increasingly used in backup and recovery solutions.

For instance, AI-powered systems can prioritize critical data, ensuring that the most vital information is backed up and recovered in case of a data loss event. Similarly, ML algorithms can optimize storage space through advanced deduplication and compression techniques, reducing the overall storage footprint.

At the same time, AI poses a threat to data protection efforts. Three-quarters of industry experts said cyberattacks increased in the past year, and 85% said AI was behind the escalation.2 As cybercriminals increasingly leverage AI to launch sophisticated attacks, data breaches and ransomware incidents become even more challenging to prevent and mitigate. Fortunately, AI and ML also offer a powerful defense against such threats.

How AI Improves Backup and Recovery Efforts

Al algorithms excel at processing massive datasets, identifying patterns, and making intelligent, data-driven decisions. They bring a level of automation and precision that is unparalleled by manual processes. Here are some of the areas where AI-powered solutions can help with data protection:

Monitoring Systems and Making Predictions

AI can determine the most likely scenarios to cause data loss. It can help predict hardware failures and the likelihood of a ransomware attack. ML is an application of AI that learns as it is used and can help analyze data, trends, and unusual activity.

Automating Tasks

One of the most useful features of AI is that it can take over manual work that IT and data employees find tedious. For example, AI-powered systems can automatically back up data based on priorities and objectives—like adjusting backup schedules to meet recovery point objectives (RPO).

Assessing Systems

An AI-powered backup and recovery solution can assess the integrity of systems to confirm processes are working correctly and to ensure compliance. AI can compare data sets against regulatory requirements and identify discrepancies. These solutions are also able to conduct continuous testing versus periodic manual tests. This provides better protection against data loss. AI can even simulate specific scenarios to test response effectiveness and reveal potential problems, so you can make sure your systems are working before you need them.

Checking Data Quality

AI can identify and notify teams of data corruption or errors, so you don’t waste time and space backing up bad data. It can also deduplicate data, as well as find and archive dormant data. These efforts not only optimize resources but speed up data recovery. Also, in the case of a ransomware attack, it can detect ransomware in your systems and backup data to protect against reinfection.

Identifying the Best Path Forward

AI tools can classify and prioritize data, make backup recommendations, and optimize storage. These tools can tell the difference between non-essential and business-critical data. AI can also establish the best steps to data recovery, as well as what needs to be recovered immediately versus what can wait. AI remembers past data recovery experiences and improves its recommendations over time.

Recovering More and Better Data

AI can react more quickly than a human can. Tools can recognize the last good backup, meaning it doesn’t contain corrupted or infected data. The use of AI may help improve and speed recovery efforts. When a data system fails, AI can immediately switch to a backup. It can also restore data in order of importance.

Tracking Unusual Activity

Today’s AI can monitor data systems for user behavior that is out of the ordinary. It can also detect other suspicious or unusual activities within your data storage and backups. Algorithms can determine a baseline of user behaviors and then send alerts when there is unusual activity. It can also recognize potential threats like accessing sensitive data, repeated failed login attempts, large data transfers, or attempts to access unauthorized data.    

AI can also track unusual activity within backup systems, such as changes in frequency, schedules, or file modifications. You can also program AI-powered solutions to spot signatures or other identifiers of known cyberthreats.       

What to Consider when Deploying AI

While AI can offer a host of benefits, it’s important to consider costs, complications, and risks that may be associated with using it in your backup and recovery efforts.

Measuring the Risks

As new AI capabilities emerge, many business leaders have concerns. In fact, 36% of executives and IT managers said AI is one of the top threats to their companies.3 One-third of those said they experienced actual damages from emerging technologies like AI.3 Although the biggest threat is likely to be AI’s use by bad actors, business leaders also worry that misuse of AI by employees puts them at risk for violating data privacy rules. There is also a risk that AI could be a failed investment, as 35% of IT buyers said their AI technologies did not work as expected.1

Creating guidelines for AI use within your company can help curb risk. It’s also important to train employees about its use and their role in protecting data. It’s possible to take advantage of AI capabilities while also minimizing risk. Choosing reputable and communicative AI vendors will help you keep up with the changing technology.

Evaluating Ease of Use

Determine whether an AI solution will easily integrate with your other IT systems. Evaluate how easy it is to implement, use, and optimize. Intuitive dashboards and integrated reporting can help simplify implementation and training.

There is also a learning curve for the technology itself. Algorithms improve as they process more data, so it can take time for machine learning tools to reach their potential. Though poised to take over a lot of data protection tasks, AI tools still require human management and oversight.

Analyze Cost Considerations

AI-powered data protection solutions are being incorporated into many existing solutions and may not have any additional costs associated with it. However, in instances where you are considering either replacing legacy technology or implementing new technology with AI-powered solutions, it helps to perform a comprehensive cost analysis.

Consider the expenses from initial investment to long-term operational expenses, including training, licensing, and ongoing management. Compare those costs with the savings you could see by improving process efficiency through automation and minimizing storage space through intelligent data compression and deduplication. Perhaps most importantly, consider the potential cost savings from reduced downtime and data loss in case of an incident.

AI does help maximize backup storage, so the benefits may outweigh any added costs. Additionally, 31% of organizations saw improved operational efficiency from their AI investments.1 It’s also important to consider the costs of managing the backup technologies yourself versus outsourcing the work to a managed service provider. Although you’re paying for a service, it can improve business efficiency, allow for predictable budgeting, and let IT teams work on projects that improve the business.

Moving Forward with AI

Without an AI-powered solution, you risk drowning in data and falling behind tech-savvy cyberattackers. With the help of the right AI tools, you can manage backups and recovery more efficiently, enhance system security, and maximize data protection. Training employees and performing a cost analysis will help minimize some of the risks and concerns associated with AI.

Connection’s cloud and data center services can help you choose the best backup and recovery solution for your organization. If you want to learn whether AI-powered solutions can help your organization, contact your Connection Account Team for more information.  

Sources:

1 IDC Research, 2022, Insights on the State of AI
2 Deep Instinct, 2023, Generative AI Is Increasing Cyber Attacks
3 Veritas, 2023, New Veritas Research Reveals Nearly Half of Organizations Underestimate Their Level of Risk
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How to Build an Education Cybersecurity... https://community.connection.com/roundtable-discussion-how-to-build-an-education-cybersecurity-strategy-that-makes-the-grade/ Nov 28, 2023 Bobby Sears https://community.connection.com/author/bobby-sears/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2407008-Connected-Cybersecurity-Education-Roundtable-BLOG.jpg

Education remains one of the most vulnerable areas to cybersecurity attacks. Schools, districts, and institutions are all struggling to maintain data privacy and security, as well as safe and secure access to technology and physical resources.

The move to more flexible classroom environments, utilizing both on-premises and cloud applications, has many benefits for both educators and students. However, it also opens schools up to more security threats. As educational organizations also must ensure they are in compliance with PII, HIPAA, FERPA, COPPA, and other regulations, these security requirements can seem daunting.

Recently, we hosted a roundtable featuring experts from Connection’s education segment vertical and professional services department, as well as representatives from Juniper Networks. The panel discussed the threats facing education today, cybersecurity program strategies, technology solutions, and processes that can help your organization move forward with confidence.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests:

Timothy Allen – Director of Operations and Technology in the Professional Services Organization at Connection

Pam Aulakh – Senior Vertical Alliance Manager for K-12 at Connection

Rob Kwiatkowski – Senior Partner Systems Engineer at Juniper Networks

Michael Bergt – Technical Marketing Senior Manager at Juniper Networks

Bobby Sears – Senior Vertical Alliance Manager for Higher Education at Connection

To listen to the recording, register here.

Cybersecurity Attacks in the Education Industry

Education in the United States caters to a vastly diverse range of students from K–12 to higher education, including Masters and PhD programs. With more than 76 million K–12 and college students, education accounts for a large portion of the U.S. population. This translates into a monumental amount of data and information in circulation, as well as the need to safeguard that data.

Unfortunately, the vast amounts of sensitive data, including private information and credentials, makes education a valuable target for cyberattacks. In 2021, 771 institutions were affected by data breaches, impacting nearly 2.6 million records. While the percentage might seem small, the impact is significant, considering the size of some of these breached organizations.

Safeguarding Student Data: Cybersecurity Challenges in Education

The education industry is currently experiencing a myriad of data breaches and cyberattacks due to several challenges, including:

  • Shortage of Cybersecurity Personnel—There has been a significant influx of new devices in schools as a result of increased federal funding recently. However, this surge in technology adoption has not been accompanied by an increase in IT staffing, resulting in a shortage of cybersecurity personnel. Districts are struggling to manage and secure their expanding fleets of devices. Cybersecurity has taken center stage, and CIOs have become concerned.
  • Lack of Funding—Implementing strong security solutions can be costly, and as security measures become more advanced, the expenses for schools can increase significantly. Additionally, ensuring that the appropriate individuals have visibility into security threats can be a complex and challenging task.
  • Onboarding and Securing New Devices—Establishing accountability for bring your own device (BYOD) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices during the onboarding and securing of new devices in educational settings can be challenging. It’s essential to define device ownership and responsibility. Furthermore, it’s crucial to consider what occurs from Day 0 to Day 2+ after deployment. During this phase, educating individuals about potential risks is of utmost importance, especially since a significant percentage of incidents are attributed to social engineering attacks.
  • Training IT Professionals in Educational Settings—The shortage of skilled professionals affects education and other industries. K–12 school districts face a unique challenge as many CIOs come from teaching backgrounds rather than IT. To address this, institutions must invest in on-the-job training and continuous skill development to upskill their existing workforce. However, cybersecurity roles in education may not always offer competitive salaries.

In higher education, the situation is similar, with universities and colleges struggling to recruit and retain qualified IT professionals. Compensation is a factor, but professionals also prioritize work-life balance and flexible work arrangements. The influx of younger generations brings a different mentality, affecting hiring practices. AI plays a growing role in the hiring process, allowing institutions to adapt to the changing workforce dynamics post-pandemic.

  • Meeting Compliance Standards—Compliance is a crucial aspect of education cybersecurity, and ensuring that schools and institutions are compliant with regulations is a challenging yet essential part of protecting data and privacy.

Failure to meet compliance standards can have severe consequences, including penalties and legal issues, which can be detrimental to the reputation and operations of schools and universities for years to come.

Developing a Security Strategy to Make the Grade

To tackle the set of cybersecurity challenges common in the education industry today, consider the following strategies:

  • Adopt a “Zero-trust” Mindset—Adopting a “zero-trust” mindset is a valuable strategy for schools to enhance their protection against cyberattacks. This approach emphasizes a default stance of mistrust towards all entities. The key principle is to identify the data or resources in need of protection and limit access to authorized individuals. This strategy should be customized to suit each organization's unique needs and assets.

Understanding one’s environment is a crucial element in implementing the zero-trust approach. Educational institutions must evaluate their network, devices, and resources to develop an effective security strategy. When undertaking network updates, thorough due diligence is essential to ensure that the selected solutions align with the specific environment.

  • Utilize Security Landscape Optimization ServicesSecurity Landscape Optimization Services can assess an organization’s security profile comprehensively. This consultative approach helps identify strengths and weaknesses in an institution’s security posture. Additionally, there are government resources available, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which can provide valuable information and best practices.
  • Protect Data in the Cloud—The adoption of cloud technologies has significantly increased in education. When implementing cloud technologies, it’s imperative to view cloud services as an extension of an institution’s estate. Regardless of whether data is hosted on-premises or within a cloud-based infrastructure, it’s crucial to consider who has access to the data, how it’s protected, and to maintain visibility over data interactions.
  • Enhance Security Posture with AI—AI offers advanced threat detection, response, and automation that are proficient in recognizing baseline behaviors and identifying outliers that may signal a potential security threat. The adoption of AI in cybersecurity extends to automating responses to known threats, reducing response times.

AI’s role in education goes beyond security; it spans various applications, including enhancing the learning experience, personalizing education, and streamlining administrative processes. AI’s capacity to analyze vast datasets and adapt in real-time is invaluable for an industry that constantly evolves.

Juniper Networks is at the forefront of integrating AI into its products. By leveraging AI, Juniper aims to simplify security management, enhance visibility, and optimize network performance, ultimately ensuring a safer educational environment.

  • Consistently Test for Resiliency—Regularly testing the resiliency of security measures is crucial to maintaining a strong security posture. Third-party testing is vital to ensure security efficacy. Educational institutions should test their security infrastructure at least annually or biannually to validate their controls and keep them up to date.

Zeroing in on Cybersecurity in Education: Continue to Navigate New Threats

Education isn’t just about acquiring knowledge; it’s also about safeguarding it. Protecting your school against cyberattacks is a multifaceted challenge that requires a comprehensive approach. By understanding the unique challenges and risks facing educational institutions, schools and universities can create robust security strategies that protect student data and privacy.

If your school or university is interested in learning more about education security solutions, visit www.connection.com/cybersecurity for additional resources to help you get started.

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So, You Have Microsoft Copilot—Now What? https://community.connection.com/so-you-have-microsoft-copilot-now-what/ Nov 21, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2405573-MS-CoPilot-BLOG.jpg

The anticipation leading up to the November 1, 2023, release of Microsoft Copilot for enterprise customers was unparalleled. During the Early Access Program (EAP), a multitude of enterprise users, including notable companies such as Visa, General Motors, KPMG, and Lumen Technologies, had the opportunity to utilize Microsoft 365 Copilot. Presently, it is available for all enterprise customers at a cost of $30 per user, per month. Once acquired, understanding how to optimize its use for your business becomes crucial. Additionally, understanding its integration within Microsoft 365, Windows 11, and Copilot with Bing Chat is essential. Connection is available to guide you through the onboarding process.

What capabilities does Copilot have in Windows 11 and how can I make the most of them?

Copilot serves as an AI assistant integrated into Windows 11, aimed at enhancing productivity and nurturing creativity. Operating alongside Bing Chat and ChatGPT plugins, Copilot aids in boosting focus, responding to inquiries, adjusting settings, summarizing information, and launching applications.

Beyond text-based interactions, Copilot in Windows enables image-related actions such as copying, dragging and dropping, or uploading images into the chat for further exploration. Additionally, it allows voice input and facilitates various actions including:

  • “Switch to dark mode”
  • “Turn on do not disturb”
  • “Capture a screenshot”
  • “Summarize this website” (Active tab in Microsoft Edge)
  • “Write a story about a hamster on vacation”
  • “Make me a picture of a sweeping mountain view”

Copilot in Windows 11 is also your assistant in creating AI-generated art. By utilizing AI-driven tools like Bing Chat, Copilot integrated within Windows, and Paint, you can make digital artwork directly from your device! Share details with Copilot, such as preferred colors, artistic styles, and additional sensory elements you wish to incorporate into your artwork. Offer this AI-powered assistant more information to customize your artwork, and watch your vision come to life.

Windows 11 offers an array of AI-driven tools and functionalities designed to enhance user experiences. Users can seamlessly utilize features like the Snipping Tool, voice commands, and intelligent suggestions within File Explorer and the Start menu. Leverage AI for enhanced creativity through applications like Clipchamp, Paint, or the Photos app.

What is Copilot with Bing Chat and how can I use it to enhance my organization?

Copilot with Bing Chat is an AI-fueled chatbot tailored for use within corporate environments. It represents the business-oriented iteration of Bing Chat, equipped with data privacy and governance controls specifically designed for enterprise settings. This enterprise version prioritizes data protection, catering to businesses concerned about privacy and security matters pertaining to generative AI tools. Offered in Preview, Bing Chat Enterprise will be incorporated into selected Microsoft 365 plans at no additional expense.

The primary function of Copilot with Bing Chat is to assist employees in content generation, data analysis, document summarization, skill acquisition, coding, and various other tasks. All these functionalities are conducted with the assurance that both user and business data are safeguarded, preventing leakage outside the organization. Copilot with Bing Chat exclusively accesses data from the public Web within the Bing search index and does not have authorization to organizational resources or content housed within Microsoft 365.

For further insights into Copilot with Bing Chat, various resources are available:

Regarding eligibility, customers possessing licenses for Microsoft 365 E3 or E5, A3 or A5 for faculty, Business Standard, or Business Premium can access Copilot with Bing Chat without extra charges. This benefit persists when Copilot with Bing Chat becomes widely available.

How can Microsoft 365 Copilot assist in my day-to-day work?

Microsoft 365 Copilot functions as your workplace AI assistant, building upon the foundation of Copilot with Bing Chat while possessing its own distinct qualities. It integrates enterprise-grade security, privacy, compliance, and responsible AI, ensuring that all data processing remains within your Microsoft 365 tenant, utilizing technology that Microsoft 365 customers have trusted for an extended period. The highlight of the Microsoft 365 Copilot experience is the Microsoft 365 Chat, surpassing basic Q&A interactions. This feature delves into your entire array of data, including emails, meetings, chats, documents, and online sources, to tackle intricate work-related challenges. Moreover, it seamlessly integrates with widely used Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams, elevating the daily experience for millions of users.

What are the differences between Copilot with Bing Chat and Microsoft 365 Copilot?

Copilot with Bing Chat operates as a generative AI service grounded solely in data from the public Web within the Bing search index, lacking access to organizational resources or Microsoft 365 content like OneDrive documents or emails.

In contrast, Microsoft 365 Copilot introduces three key elements:

  • Access to data within the Microsoft 365 Graph within your tenant
  • Processing of prompts and responses exclusively within your Microsoft 365 tenant boundary, reinforced by specific security, compliance, and privacy features
  • Integration of this generative AI capability within Microsoft 365 applications such as Teams, Outlook, and Word

Ready to venture into the world of Copilot? The opportunities to enrich your work experience are limitless. Contact your Connection Account Team for more details.

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Retail Cybersecurity Threats and Solutions https://community.connection.com/retail-cybersecurity-threats-and-solutions/ Nov 21, 2023 Brian Gallagher https://community.connection.com/author/brian-gallagher/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2393959-Retail-Cybersecurity-BLOG.jpg

Technological innovations have transformed our retail experience. The impact of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, and mobility are significantly improving the customer experience, while at the same time creating more opportunity for security breaches.  The risk is compounded by the fact that each of these emerging technologies increases risk in two ways: first, by increasing the attack surface due to substantial growth in Internet-facing devices, and second, by creating exponentially more data—and bad actors are always looking for an easy path to exploitation. 

Shockingly, 24% of all cyberattacks target retailers, making cybersecurity a paramount concern for this sector. A single data breach causes an average drop of 7.5% in publicly traded stock prices, according to Harvard Business Review, and, according to a Business Wire report in 2019, 21% of consumers will stop shopping with a retailer that has been breached. We have never met a retailer that could survive a 10% drop in overall traffic, let alone 20%.

Both Business Operational Leaders and IT Leadership need to work together to understand the threats, vulnerabilities, and their potential impacts on the long-term brand value. This issue is not an IT issue; cyberattacks are an organizational issue.

Most Common Cyberattacks in Retail

  • Credential Phishing (30.43%): Attackers impersonate legitimate entities, often through email or fake websites, to trick employees into revealing sensitive information like login credentials.
  • Malware (21.74%): Malware, malicious software designed to infiltrate systems and steal data, poses a significant risk to retailers. It can be delivered through deceptive emails or compromised software.
  • Ransomware (13.04%): These attacks involve encrypting a retailer’s data and demanding a ransom for its release. Paying the ransom is not a guarantee of data recovery and may encourage further attacks.
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks (10.14%): DDoS attacks disrupt online services by overwhelming them with traffic. For retailers, this means websites can become inaccessible during critical shopping seasons.
  • Other Attack Methods (24.65%): While these statistics provide insights into common attack methods, retailers must remain vigilant against a wide range of other threats, including insider threats, supply chain attacks, and zero-day vulnerabilities.

Remediation Strategies

It is crucial for businesses to take proactive measures to protect their systems, customers, and reputation. Such measures include:  

  • Continuous Employee Training: Even at the store level, retailers must invest in cybersecurity training for employees in connected omnichannel environments. All employees must embrace a strong cyber culture.
  • Advanced Security Software: Implement robust endpoint Detection and response (EDR) and extended detection and response (XDR) solutions to detect and mitigate against exploitation-based attacks.
  • Network Security: Employ network monitoring tools to detect and respond to DDoS attacks promptly. Consider cloud-based DDoS protection services for scalability and robust security.
  • Secure Backup and Recovery: Regularly back up data, and test data recovery procedures to ensure business continuity. Ensure malware detection is part of the operational process.
  • Third-party Risk Assessment: Evaluate the security practices of third-party vendors, and conduct third-party exploitation-based testing against your infrastructure.

In a world where omnichannel retail is the norm, retailers must be vigilant guardians of both their own and their customers’ data. At Connection, we understand the importance of creating a secure shopping experience and how it has a direct impact on your bottom-line profits.  Engage our Retail Practice to learn more about the cybersecurity solutions we can help implement in your retail organization.

Reference Links:

digistor.com/what-happens-to-a-companys-reputation-after-a-data-breach/#:~:text=The%202019%20survey%20%E2%80%94%20summarized%20in,a%20business%20post%2Dbreach.%E2%80%9D

https://hbr.org/2023/05/the-devastating-business-impacts-of-a-cyber-breach

https://www.fortinet.com/solutions/industries/retail/retail-cybersecurity-statistics

https://arcticwolf.com/resources/blog/10-major-retail-industry-cyber-attacks/

https://www.threatintelligence.com/blog/retail-cybersecurity

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Know Your Manufacturing Cybersecurity Risk... https://community.connection.com/know-your-manufacturing-cybersecurity-risk-baseline/ Nov 17, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2383527-Blog-MFG-Cybersecurity-Risk-Baseline-BLOG.jpg

Manufacturing is now the #1 most attacked industry.1 The threats are real, and unsecured devices and networks, lack of cyber awareness, and supply chain attacks only heighten the risk. These threats cannot be addressed with technology alone; building a strong policy base and cyber culture is critical.

In a recent roundtable discussion, Connection’s Manufacturing Practice, Professional Services experts, and Cisco all met to discuss imminent threats, cybersecurity program strategies, and technology that sheds light on today’s challenges and the direction manufacturing customers should be prepared to take. Below is a summary of that discussion, including the critical issues in manufacturing cybersecurity today and the strategies to best address them.

Host: James Hilliard
Guests:
Ryan Spurr, Connection Manufacturing Strategy Director
Rob Di Girolamo, Connection Practice Manager for Security and Network Solutions Center
Prithvi Manduva, Cisco Industrial IoT Technical Solutions Architect

To listen to the recording, register here.

Manufacturing: The Most Attacked Industry

Manufacturing has emerged as the top target for cyberattacks, with threats that are real and pervasive. In recent years, the manufacturing sector has experienced a significant shift in its vulnerability to cyber threats. Approximately 24–25% of all cyber incidents now target manufacturing, making it the most attacked industry globally.2

The reasons behind this heightened threat level include attackers increasingly focusing on manufacturing operations, with a 2,200% increase in surveillance in operational technology noted last year.3 These attacks result in 61% of successful breaches now occurring in operational environments, signifying a significant shift from previous years.3

The implications of cyberattacks on manufacturing are far reaching. Beyond compromising intellectual property, they can lead to downtime, financial losses, damage to a company’s reputation, and even impact stock prices—as recent Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules have demonstrated.

Top Manufacturing Security Challenges

The rate at which the manufacturing industry is experiencing increasing security risks is due to several challenges, including:

Lack of Visibility

Gaining visibility into the numerous devices and systems on the operational technology (OT) floor is a significant challenge. Different vendors and technologies create individual silos, making it difficult to monitor and secure the entire network. This is especially important when factoring in human error that occurs on the manufacturing floor. Changes made by vendors or personnel on the plant floor can often go unnoticed, creating a potential security risk. Implementing control mechanisms and detailed logs for changes is essential to track and maintain control.

Knowing what’s happening is crucial for securing systems. One tool that can provide visibility into OT is Cisco’s Cybervision, which helps teams understand their environment and develop security policies.

IT and OT Convergence

The convergence of IT and OT introduces a host of new challenges and demands a fundamental shift in the way organizations approach security. Manufacturers must consider the following:

Infrastructure: Simplify and secure the infrastructure connecting IT and OT environments, implementing segmented networks to minimize risk and impact.

Security as a Layered Approach: Address cybersecurity not just as an endpoint protection issue but as a layered approach to secure the entire network.

Collaboration and Coordination: Emphasize collaboration and coordination between IT and OT teams, ensuring that both domains work together to enhance security.

Legacy Devices

Many manufacturing systems and devices have been in operation for years, with no security measures in place. These legacy devices pose a significant security risk on the manufacturing floor for several reasons.

Firstly, these systems often lack the essential security features and updates that modern systems incorporate. Many legacy devices have been in operation for years—and over time, security vulnerabilities have emerged. Manufacturers might be unable to obtain patches or updates from vendors, as support may have been discontinued or the vendor may have even gone out of business. This leaves these systems vulnerable to exploitation by cybercriminals who can target their known weaknesses.

Additionally, legacy systems may not meet current security standards or compliance requirements. As cybersecurity threats evolve and regulations become more stringent, legacy systems can’t keep up. They may lack encryption, access controls, and other security features necessary to protect sensitive data and manufacturing processes, putting the organization at risk of non-compliance.

Ransomware Attacks

70% of ransomware attacks occur on the manufacturing floor, and that number has been growing.4 Ransomware attacks can encrypt critical data, control systems, or entire networks, effectively holding an organization hostage until a ransom is paid. This can result in production downtime, missed deadlines, and compromised product quality.

Implementing a zero-trust architecture can greatly enhance security in manufacturing by adopting a “never trust, always verify” approach. Zero trust assumes that no user or system, whether inside or outside the network, should be trusted by default. It verifies the identity and security posture of every user and device attempting to access resources within the manufacturing environment. This strategy prevents lateral movement within the network, limiting the spread of ransomware or any other cyber threats.

Supply Chain Risks

Relying on external vendors and suppliers introduces supply chain risks, requiring organizations to ensure that they can trust their partners and suppliers. Manufacturers often rely on a complex network of external vendors and suppliers to provide various components, materials, and technologies. This reliance introduces vulnerabilities at multiple touchpoints along the supply chain. If a supplier or vendor experiences a cybersecurity breach, it can have a cascading effect on the manufacturing process.

Malicious actors may seek to compromise a manufacturer’s supply chain to infiltrate their systems. This could involve tactics like planting malware in a supplier’s systems, exploiting vulnerabilities during product shipments, or even conducting insider attacks within a supplier’s organization. These malicious activities can bypass traditional security measures within the manufacturing facility and pose a significant risk to the organization’s security and operations.

Supply chain risks have become more prominent, and it’s crucial to vet and set security standards for vendors and partners. Manufacturers must prioritize robust cybersecurity measures across their entire supply chain to mitigate these risks and ensure the integrity and security of their products and processes.

Complexity

As manufacturing integrates OT and IT, the resulting complexity can overwhelm teams and hinder productivity. As a result of such increasing complexity in manufacturing environments, the desire for simplicity is growing.

Beyond tools such as Cisco’s Cybervision to reduce complexity by providing visibility into OT environments, extended detection and response (XDR) is another advanced security concept that helps manage and secure complex environments like manufacturing floors. It does so by segregating and containing threats to prevent them from spreading across networks.

Lack of Skilled Cybersecurity Professionals

The shortage of skilled cybersecurity practitioners is a significant concern for the manufacturing sector. Upskilling the existing workforce and leveraging automation and artificial intelligence can help bridge this gap.

Providing adequate cybersecurity training to OT personnel is also crucial. Phishing awareness and security education tailored to the manufacturing environment are essential to prevent human errors that could lead to breaches.

Gaining Buy-in from Leadership

Cybersecurity is the responsibility of everyone in an organization. Building a culture of security and awareness is essential. Executives, IT, and OT professionals must work together to enhance security measures. To convince executives to focus on cybersecurity, IT teams should emphasize the impact of disruptions on production and reputation, as well as regulatory compliance.

Cybersecurity Challenges and Solutions for Modern Manufacturers

The manufacturing sector faces an unprecedented wave of cyber threats, making it the primary target for malicious actors. These attacks result in substantial financial losses, downtime, and reputation damage. The increase in cyberattacks can be attributed to a number of factors, including a lack of visibility into the numerous devices and systems on the manufacturing floor, a need for better collaboration between IT and OT teams, and unsecure legacy systems—to name a few.

To thrive in this challenging environment, manufacturers must cultivate a security-focused culture that involves all levels of the organization, from executives to IT and OT professionals. Investing in cybersecurity is not just an option but a necessity to mitigate risks and ensure the resilience of manufacturing operations in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Sources:

1 IBM, 2023, 2023 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index

2 Statista, 2022, Distribution of cyber attacks across worldwide industries in 2022

3 IBM, 2022, 2022 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index

4 Industrial Cyber, 2023, Ransomware activity in industrial environments almost doubles, with over 70% focused on manufacturing sector

If your business is interested in learning more about manufacturing security solutions, visit www.connection.com/manufacturing or www.connection.com/cybersecurity for additional resources to help you get started.

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A Day in the Life of a Senior Business... https://community.connection.com/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-senior-business-process-analyst/ Nov 16, 2023 Stu Hipwell https://community.connection.com/author/stu-hipwell/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2391271-A-Day-in-the-Life-Stu-H-BLOG.jpg

Q1: What does a Senior Business Process Analyst do?

The role of a Business Process Analyst is to identify and improve the processes and workflows within Connection. This involves analyzing data to understand how a process or workflow currently works and working with the business to determine the desired state of that process or workflow. In addition, a Business Process Analyst is also heavily involved with helping our leaders in Connection design new business processes and help support the change management, so the business is prepared for changes that impact their roles and responsibilities.

Q2: What skills are required to successfully do the job?

The skills that have helped me succeed in my role of Senior Business Process Analyst include:

  • Building great relationships with my peers and having a good understanding of the processes and workflows used within Connection
  • Having a strong knowledge of current business processes and workflows and how they impact our business
  • Asking lots of questions of my peers and analyzing data to help determine how business processes and workflows can be improved, become more efficient, or be automated
  • Having strong interpersonal and communication skills and building “trust” with the business teams I work closely with
  • Attention to detail when creating procedure documents, process maps, and reports that play a critical role in helping the business adapt to change

Q3: Can you describe a typical day in your role as a Senior Business Process Analyst?

My role is currently a little bit different than other Business Process Analysts at Connection. For the past four years, I have taken on the role of Administrator of Connect, our internal corporate intranet. In this role, no day is “typical,” which makes the role exciting. On any given day, I could be posting informative news and announcements on our site, collaborating with teams to build resourceful site pages, training and assisting peers with managing their content on our intranet, and creating and sharing best practices to promote the integrity and credibility of Connect. 

Q4: What’s the best part of your job? What’s most challenging?

The best part of my job is being able to collaborate regularly with so many of my peers in Connection that I would rarely work with if I were in another role.

The most challenging part of my job is successfully managing my time to meet the needs of the business. In my Administrator role, no day is like the one before. Some days require me to quickly shift gears to meet a spontaneous or high priority request, which can often change the view of my day. On other days, the times I have dedicated to projects I need to complete, carry on without any issues. The role keeps me on my toes! 

Q5: What do you love most about working at Connection?

I have been with Connection since 1994, and in that time, I have had the opportunity to wear a few different hats in the organization: Account Manager, Sales Manager, Sales Operations, and Business Transformation. I love that my journey at Connection has allowed me to gain several business and personal skills and build amazing relationships with so many of my peers—many of which are like family to me.

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Find the Microsoft Azure Solutions that Fit... https://community.connection.com/find-the-microsoft-azure-solutions-that-fit-your-needs-at-connection/ Nov 09, 2023 Krysten Harper https://community.connection.com/author/krysten-harper/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2381465-Connected-Azure-at-CNXN-BLOG.jpg

When you think of Microsoft Azure and all it encompasses, it can start to seem a little overwhelming. I like to think of Azure as an amusement park. Imagine that each ride or restaurant or game in the amusement park is a service Azure offers—such as virtual machines, databases, storage, or advanced computing services like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Just how you can choose which rides to go on at the amusement park, you can choose which services you want to use in Azure.

In 2013, only 50% of Fortune 500 companies were using Azure. Today, that number is closer to 95%! According to Markets and Markets, the Cloud Computing Marketplace was valued around $545 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $1,240 billion by the end of 2027. However, during Microsoft Inspire earlier this year, we learned that 90% of worldwide IT spend has yet to move to the cloud! How do all of these numbers exist at the same time? Because for many companies, moving to the cloud is not an “all or nothing” event. In fact, many of our customers prefer to start by moving one or two workloads over rather than going “all in” right at the beginning. Regardless of where you are in your journey, Connection can help!

At amusement parks, you pay one price for the ticket, regardless of how many rides you plan to go on. With Azure, though, you get a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which means users only pay for the resources and services they use. Because of this flexibility, Azure is used by organizations of all sizes to transform their IT infrastructure and applications without the need for significant upfront investments in hardware and data centers.

Connection Service Offerings

We don’t just do a quick lift and shift and call it good, because too much can go wrong. Connection offers a straightforward, end-to-end, modular solution for organizations seeking to integrate existing workloads into the cloud.

  • Migration Planning: IT Landscape Optimization

Asset Discovery and Optimization was born from software compliance and has evolved to include cloud preparedness, security readiness, modern workplace management, and server optimization. Another option for customers looking to migrate is Cloud Landscape Optimization. We will work with you to recommend the best cloud model to suit your needs, assess which workloads can be moved safely to the cloud, and offer migration strategies to minimize risks.

  • Migration and Optimization: Professional Services

Once you’ve made the decision to migrate, our Azure Specialists and Professional Services teams will help move your data, applications, and infrastructure to Azure with our Azure Migration offering. Connection has earned Microsoft’s Advanced Specialization for Windows Server and SQL Migrations, so we have the knowledge and experience to ensure these projects run as smoothly as possible.

For customers already in Azure, our Azure Optimization Services will do exactly what it sounds like. These services review your existing architecture and uncover potential opportunities for improvement by leveraging Platform as a Service, Automation, and other Azure native tools available within the platform. We also offer a wide variety of services and solutions that support projects involving Azure Virtual Desktop and Azure VMware Solutions.

  • Day-to-Day Management: Managed Services

Looking for more long-term assistance? Our Azure Managed Services offering is great for customers who want to migrate to Azure, but who may not have the skills or bandwidth to manage that environment themselves after the migration.

Step Right Up—and Get Help from Connection

Whether you have already taken the plunge on the amusement park’s roller coaster and are ready to check out our Migration and Optimization Professional Services, or you’re still waiting in anticipation and need to think about Migration Planning through our IT Landscape Optimization Services—or even if you’re content to sit on a bench and hand off riding the rides to someone else with our Day-to-Day Managed Services—Connection has the right fit for your Azure needs. Contact your Account Team for more information in setting up the plan that is right for you.

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Empowering Organizations to Do More with... https://community.connection.com/empowering-organizations-to-do-more-with-remote-management/ Nov 08, 2023 Alex DeRossi https://community.connection.com/author/alex-derossi/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2382821-PH-2-Intel-Remote-Management-BLOG.png

One of the longest lasting and seemingly immutable truths about the American workforce has been upended: the notion that employees almost always do their work at a corporate facility. Recently, 58% of Americans surveyed said they have the opportunity to work from home at least once a week, and 35% said they can do so every day, according to McKinsey.1

Another survey by TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group found that predicting work locations is unpredictable, with only 23% of organizations saying all employees who previously worked from an office will return to the office. That number is nearly identical to the percentage of organizations that indicated they will allow many employees to work remotely.2

With so many people now working remotely at least part time, the burden for managing that new reality falls squarely on the often under-resourced IT organization. Remote management of end-user computing—and every technology that enables it—has become far more complicated and far more important than ever. Employees expect and demand a smooth, seamless, and friction-free user experience that allows them to work productively and efficiently.

With the right remote management tools and the proper IT infrastructure, organizations can turn the potential chaos of “work from anywhere” into a scenario where employee location matters far less than employee experience.

Enhancing Productivity and the User Experience

The skyrocketing adoption of mobility and remote/hybrid work means many IT organizations are hard-pressed to keep up with new requirements and demands for high availability, high performance, and secure access at all times. Even seemingly simple tasks such as delivering security patches and operating system updates have become far more important—and challenging—when PCs are more likely to be located outside a corporate facility and accessible over wide-area networks or the cloud.

IT help desks also need next-generation remote management to support end users with password reset requests, performance glitches, application errors, and much more. To lessen employee inconvenience and frustration, updates and fixes must be scheduled outside of “normal” business hours. Of course, this becomes far more challenging because organizations employ people in different time zones and geographies around the world.

There is also the issue of business continuity in the event of an unexpected service interruption, which can take employees offline for hours or longer, resulting in potentially large financial losses, diminished customer satisfaction, and lower employee productivity. In these and other circumstances where remote PC users need around-the-clock support, a much higher level of remote management is essential.

Another important area where remote management comes into play is device administration, where IT organizations have to audit and report on the location and status of every device under their purview. Whether onboarding a new employee or ending access and privileges for exiting employees, IT organizations need to be able to find and understand their PC fleet at all times.

How Connection Makes Employee Empowerment a Reality

With the growing IT complexity of remote/hybrid work environments, it has become far more difficult for internal IT organizations to satisfactorily support remote management without the help of experienced, savvy technology services partners. That’s why, at Connection, we have invested substantial financial, staff, and intellectual resources in remote management.

Connection helps large and small organizations alike with a wide range of end-user computing and remote connectivity requirements. We provide the devices, software, services, and industry knowledge to cover the full spectrum of remote management to ensure around-the-clock productivity and an enhanced employee experience. Working with leading technology partners such as Intel, we can extend the internal IT organization with a wide range of capabilities, including infrastructure planning and configuration, systems integration, deployment services, and support.

This enables organizations to allow staff to work productively from home or other remote locations. It also helps them maximize their substantial and growing investment in digital work processes and cutting-edge workloads that require high-performance, secure, and sustainable PCs to get the job done.

Connection facilitates out-of-the-box operation for all PCs, regardless of location or whether there is an IT support professional at the employee’s location. Connection’s Technology Integration and Distribution Center enables it to support an organization’s diverse PC configuration needs around the world, using proven methodologies and a wide array of technical certifications in PCs, networks, and remote management.

The Remote Management Capabilities of Intel vPro®

Intel vPro® 13th Generation processors are ideally suited for the demanding, uncompromising needs of a remote workforce. Their high performance, robust security, and efficient sustainability features are designed for modernized end-user computing.

For remote management requirements, Intel vPro® processors are engineered with integrated features that make managing a vast fleet of mobile, distributed devices much easier and reliable, without taxing overworked internal IT teams.

Intel® Active Management Technology (AMT) facilitates remote management and troubleshooting. IT team members can connect remotely to an employee’s PC even when the computer is far away from a corporate facility. Intel® AMT can also handle PC monitoring even when the device is turned off or when the operating system is disabled or not functioning properly. Importantly, Intel® AMT is unique in its ability to return a PC to its last known good state, even if the employee isn’t working at that time. Finally, it supports remote out-of-band management over Wi-Fi networks, which provides secure access to devices without having to connect to the corporate local-area network.

Additionally, Intel vPro® processors come with Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant, which makes it easier for IT personnel to manage Intel® EMA- enabled remote endpoints over the cloud, as well as on both sides of corporate network firewalls. Intel® EMA software is a cloud-based solution, supporting both in-band and out-of-band management through an OS-based agent for any Windows platform.

Conclusion

To give employees the flexibility and support they need for remote and hybrid work, organizations need the technology and expertise required to make remote management a valuable part of the overall IT service delivery framework. The combination of Intel vPro® processor technology and market-demonstrated IT services from Connection empowers organizations and their workforces to do essential work, regardless of their work location.

For more information on how Intel and Connection can help your organization do more, be sure to check out our blog post, Custom IT Configurations for Remote Manageability, or contact your Connection Account Team today. 

1 “Americans Are Embracing Flexible Work—and They Want More of It,” McKinsey, June 23, 2022
2 “End-User Computing Trends,” TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group, Feb. 16, 2022

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Upcoming Microsoft 365 for Education... https://community.connection.com/upcoming-microsoft-365-for-education-licensing-changes/ Nov 07, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2378197-MS-EDU-Licensing-Blog-BLOG.jpg

Does your school use the Microsoft 365 for Education suite? There are two upcoming licensing changes that you need to be aware of! These changes will take place on August 1, 2024—but it is never too early to be prepared. Let Connection help with any questions or concerns you have leading up to, during, and after the transition.

Office 365 A1 Plus Retirement

The Office 365 A1 Plus Program will be retired on August 1, 2024. The program was introduced in 2015 to ease the provisioning burden on IT professionals in education institutions as they moved to the cloud. For qualified schools that purchased Office institution-wide for faculty and staff, the A1 Plus Program included a free subscription and Office desktop apps.

Why Is It Being Retired?

Although it was intended to create an easier transition to the cloud, it ultimately led to complexities and issues that inadvertently steered customers to non-compliancy. Microsoft 365 A3 and A5 licenses are easier to provision now, which both addresses customers’ requirements and the need for a transitional program. 

What Steps Do I Need to Take?

The first step is to check the Microsoft Admin portal to see if you have any A1 Plus licenses in your tenant. 

• Navigate to the Microsoft 365 Admin Portal: https://admin.microsoft.com
• In the navigation menu on the left side of the screen, select Billing > Your Products
• 
Identify any instances of the Office 365 A1 Plus for Faculty and Office 365 A1 Plus for Student assigned licenses

Once you have identified what users are on A1 Plus licenses, you must determine what license they should be assigned. The following SKUs are what is recommended by Microsoft. Work with your Connection Account Team for help with deciphering your needs:

• Office 365 A1: Free online Office productivity and learning tools. Includes Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams, and additional classroom tools.

• Microsoft 365 A3: A comprehensive platform for learning and working with integrated security and management. A3 includes premium tools for learning and skill building, increased security, AI-infused productivity tools, and device controls for management and student safety. 

• Microsoft 365 A5: Microsoft 365 A5 provides the most comprehensive platform for teaching, learning, and work. Microsoft 365 A5 is for institutions who want a single productivity, communications, and collaboration platform for work and learning in addition to the most advanced security. 

Of note: for customers who have additional light users or want to use desktop apps, there is an option to purchase Office 365 A3 licenses or Office desktop apps as an add-on.

Users of A1 Plus will not lose their data once it retires. However, if no action is taken prior to the retirement date, users will be downgraded to an A1 license resulting in access to only the online Web apps. 

Microsoft recommends transitioning users early and providing guidance on what they can expect with their new license if changes occur. Please see the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet provided by Microsoft and contact your Connection Account Team for more information as you navigate these licensing changes.

Storage Changes

In addition to the A1 Plus program's retirement, Microsoft is changing their storage offerings across the Microsoft 365 for Education suite. Beginning at your next contract renewal—but no sooner than August 1, 2024—all school tenants will receive 100TB of free pooled storage across OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange, with an additional 50GB or 100GB of pooled storage per paid user for A3 and A5 subscriptions, respectively (not including Student Use Benefits). 

Of note: technical enforcement will begin August 1, 2024. Most schools are well below their storage allotment. For any mid-enrollment customer over that storage limit on August 1, 2024, Microsoft will provide additional storage at no cost through the length of the customer’s current term.

Schools can also purchase additional pooled storage to add to the tenant pool in 10TB increments for $300 USD (estimated retail) monthly. To find your capacity, use this calculation: 100TB + (#A3 paid users x 50GB) + (#A5 paid users x 100 GB) + (additional storage purchased) = capacity/limit.

Also, effective February 1, 2024, users of Office 365 A1 will be limited to a maximum of 100GB of OneDrive storage within the school tenant’s 100TB of pooled storage. Schools will have the option to purchase additional incremental storage based on their needs.

Why Is Microsoft Making Storage Changes?

After a significant increase of unused accounts, stored files, and data as institutions move to the cloud, there is not an end-of-life plan for these files, putting education institutions and their students at risk for a data breach. Not to mention that stored files no longer in use significantly impact our carbon footprint! Storage of this “dark” data takes up space on servers and results in increased electricity consumption. Microsoft is committed to both security and privacy within a school as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Help When and Where You Need It

With the help from a free set of tools to manage the entire process from visualizing current storage allocation across OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange, to tools that make it easier to manage stored data and files that are no longer needed, Microsoft is committed to helping schools with this transition. Currently, most schools are well below their storage allotment. To see your school’s storage profile and access the new storage management tools, go to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. Your Account Team at Connection is here to provide additional licensing and storage guidance as you begin to delve into your school’s profile to determine what steps you need to take to prepare for the upcoming changes. Our Premium Microsoft Landscape Optimization offers a User Profile and Cloudstack workshop to help you discern your options and provide a tactical approach to support your Microsoft investment strategy. Reach out to your Connection Account Team or watch our vlog for more information.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILIAFh7Zk0I
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TechSperience Episode 121: Leveraging... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-121-leveraging-advanced-technologies-to-modernize-manufacturing/ Nov 06, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2384567-TechSperience-Podcast-121-BUZZ1.jpg

We’re at an inflection point in U.S. manufacturing. Those that are not investing in advanced technologies today will quickly find themselves uncompetitive. Those that are beginning to modernize their facilities, however, are achieving smarter and more digitally excellent design and production. In this podcast, we'll explore how manufacturers can leverage advanced technologies to modernize their spaces and ultimately yield big business benefits.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Blake Kerrigan, Senior Director for ThinkEdge Business Group at Lenovo

Zihan Wang, Global Business Development Manager at NVIDIA

Ryan Spurr, Manufacturing Strategy Director at Connection

Show Notes:

[0:55] Are there one or two trends or issues across manufacturing that are leading teams to recognize the need to modernize today?

[4:52] What other trends from a technological standpoint are you seeing regarding manufacturers' need to modernize their facilities?

[7:00] AI is helping the manufacturing industry modernize faster. What are teams looking to do with AI?

[10:25] What are some of the leading cutting-edge manufacturers doing? What can we learn from them?

[14:01] How much education is needed to assist manufacturers with what they need to begin the modernization process?

[21:45] What are some case study examples of how manufacturers have modernized their facilities recently?

[25:00] How did our teams help Trek Bikes modernize their research and development manufacturing operations?

[28:01] How's Lenovo helping automotive manufacturers modernize the early stages of their manufacturing production operations?

[31:56] How has our team assisted Pegatron with modernizing its mass production? [35:04] How can adopting smart technologies in manufacturing help with cost savings?

[37:55] To continue the conversation, visit www.connection.com/manufacturing and our Manufacturing Practice can help jumpstart your modernization process.

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The Factory of Tomorrow Is the Factory of Today https://community.connection.com/the-factory-of-tomorrow-is-the-factory-of-today/ Oct 31, 2023 James Rust https://community.connection.com/author/james-rust/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2371335-Smart-Factory-Blog.jpg

For years, people have dreamed of automated factories and operations that can sustain themselves autonomously. While we haven’t quite reached that level, leading manufacturers have leapt toward that goal with the application of feasible and proven smart technologies in recent years. These new advances are revolutionizing manufacturing and can offer companies a competitive advantage.

The Senses of the Smart Factory

Industrial sensors have become a vital part of modern manufacturing. Not only can a wide variety of physical quantities such as temperature, pressure, flow, level, and location be monitored—the data can be used to automate all kinds of industrial processes. 

Where maintenance personnel once had to go and manually check pressure and temperature to see if an issue was starting to appear, they can now perform other tasks while sensors keep an eye on these metrics and alert them as soon as there is a problem. This continuous monitoring allows them to address issues as quickly as possible, without wasting time periodically checking for problems.

Industrial sensors can be just as valuable for production as for maintenance. Temperature can drastically affect a manufacturing process, and monitoring these levels will ensure that products are manufactured to the correct specifications.

Industrial sensors are essential to many industrial processes, helping to improve efficiency, quality, and safety. For example, flow sensors measure the flow rate of raw materials and finished products to ensure that production lines are running efficiently. Temperature sensors monitor the temperature of furnaces and other equipment to ensure products are manufactured to the correct specifications. Level sensors monitor the level of liquids and solids in tanks and containers to ensure that there is enough material to keep the production process running and prevent overflow. 

Smart cameras can “see” what is going on in the operation and, by using artificial intelligence, can analyze and interpret images. Thanks to advances in AI, anything you can train a human to watch for on a security camera monitor, you can teach a camera to do just as well. Successful implementation has already occurred for use cases in quality control, process optimization, and safety.

Contaminants in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing can be detected throughout the process, ensuring every pill is what you expect, when you take it. Issues in the manufacturing process can be spotted without the need for a person to conduct exhaustive studies. Most importantly, safety hazards such as spills and leaking gas can be detected, and the right people can be immediately notified.

The Brain of the Smart Factory

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software platforms pull together data from industrial sensors, cameras, and controllers to paint a clear picture of the factory floor. The raw data can be processed at the edge to drive automation and then sent to up the stack to other systems or stakeholders, offering management real-time visibility into their operation. It also enables predictive maintenance to lower downtime, optimization of the production line by reducing waste, and the insight needed to develop new processes and products. When this data is processed at the edge, it does not have to travel to a central cloud server and back, which is especially important where low latency or autonomous operations are critical. Most operations have many legacy devices or tools that are older but can’t be connected to a modern network. Smart edge devices, specifically designed for manufacturing, can connect to any machine and ensure it becomes part of your IIoT stack leaving no device behind. If you’re curious about edge devices, check out my post.

The Limbs of the Smart Factory

Automated Mobile Robots and Automated Guided Vehicles (AMR/AGVs) are a type of smart technology that is becoming increasingly popular in the manufacturing industry. AMR/AGVs are used to automate a variety of tasks such as material handling, order fulfillment, and assembly. By automating repetitive tasks, AMR/AGVs can help to free up human workers to focus on more complex tasks such as machine repair and product development, which leads to increased efficiency and productivity. These robots have relatively low maintenance costs and may be less expensive than hiring additional staff for growing companies. AMR/AGVs can even help to improve safety in the workplace by automating tasks that are dangerous yet error prone due to repetition. One of their most valuable additions to a factory is the flexibility they bring. AMR/AGVs are able to reconfigure production lines quickly and easily, meaning workers won’t have nearly as much setup time. This can be helpful for manufacturers who have a high mix/low volume product offering or who need to be able to quickly adapt to changes in demand.

The Smart Factory Is Here—Let It Work for You

All of these factors described in a smart factory result in a business that is capable of producing finished goods with higher quality and safety standards, and greater efficiency. These technologies may be new, but they are far from unproven. Smart factories already exist, and the companies that implement them have seen tremendous benefits.

Since there are so many technologies to implement in an Industry 4.0 journey, many manufacturers have opted to simply worry about it down the line and focus on current issues. The truth is that investing in these technologies now will solve many of the challenges factories face today, and surely face down the line—like competitors with significantly lower costs. 

Transforming your operation may seem daunting, but that’s why Connection has partners who handle every piece of the transition and have successfully managed these changes for customers. If you’re ready to get started with smart technologies, engage the Manufacturing Practice at Connection today. We’ll make sure you have everything you need to reap the benefits of a smart factory and see incredible results.

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A Strong Foundation Is Essential for AI... https://community.connection.com/a-strong-foundation-is-essential-for-ai-retail-solutions/ Oct 26, 2023 Brian Gallagher https://community.connection.com/author/brian-gallagher/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2363171-Retail-AI-Foundation-Blog.jpg

In today’s hyper-competitive retail landscape, staying ahead of the curve requires more than just attractive storefronts and competitive pricing. Retailers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to gain a competitive edge. However, successful implementation of AI in retail hinges on two key elements: 

  • A strong understanding of your brand 
  • A solid technology infrastructure foundation

Your entire organization must be aligned to your brand mission. Only then will you be able to leverage AI in a way that optimizes your business outcomes. For AI solutions, look to the technology leaders to be sure you have a robust foundation built upon four key pillars: data, networking, edge computing, and security. 

As only you understand the value of your brand, I want to walk through the foundational technologies that you need to bring your vision to life.

Data: The Lifeblood of AI in Retail

Data is the lifeblood of AI, and this is especially true in retail. Retailers deal with vast amounts of data daily, including sales transactions, inventory levels, customer preferences, and more. To harness the power of AI, retailers must first establish a comprehensive data strategy. This involves collecting, storing, and managing data efficiently.

Since data serves as the raw material for AI algorithms, it is critical to understand the data that aligns most closely with your brand attributes. The data will allow you to understand customer behavior, predict trends, optimize supply chains, and personalize marketing efforts. Perhaps the most important outcome is how data can provide customer insights to help retailers create a more personalized experience.

Networking: Enabling Data Flow and Real-time Insights

Data alone is not enough; it needs to flow seamlessly within an organization. Networking plays a pivotal role in this process. The challenge for retailers is the dispersed network of stores, warehouses, and distribution centers. A robust networking infrastructure ensures that data from these various locations can be collected and transmitted efficiently. Providing real-time inventory, omnichannel customer engagement, and employee solutions is key in our modern retailing world.

Edge Computers: Bringing AI to the Front Lines

While centralized data processing has its merits, in retail, many AI applications benefit from edge computing. One might argue that AI at the edge is the most critical step in providing a hyper-personalized experience to your customers. Edge computers are devices located close to where data is generated, such as in-store cameras or sensors. These devices can process data locally, reducing latency and enabling real-time decision-making.

In retail, edge computers are instrumental in applications like AI-kiosks or shelf monitoring. AI-kiosks for shopping or self-checkout can change both the customer experience but also improve employee productivity and loss prevention. Cameras mounted on store shelves can analyze product availability, price accuracy, and planogram compliance in real-time. This information can trigger alerts for store associates to take immediate action, ensuring shelves are always well-stocked and organized.  All these features are done at the edge to optimize an outcome specific to a store, customer, or employee.

Security: Safeguarding Customer Trust

In the age of AI, the security of data and AI systems is paramount. A security breach can result in severe reputational damage and legal consequences that your brand and income statement may never recover from again.

Implementing robust security measures is non-negotiable when building an AI foundation for retail. This includes encryption, access controls, and continuous monitoring of AI systems. Retailers must also comply with data protection regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA, to maintain customer trust and avoid hefty fines. AI models themselves can be vulnerable to attacks, including adversarial attacks and data poisoning. Retailers need to invest in AI security solutions to protect their models from manipulation and ensure they make accurate predictions.

What’s Next?

The complexity of AI and the infrastructure needed to optimize your outcomes require a fresh look at the alignment of your internal teams and the alignment with a trusted third-party partner. AI solutions are developing so quickly over the next 24–36 months that managing the process internally is no longer an option. Choosing a trusted partner now ensures that AI solutions align with your brand mission.At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than your brand. AI and the technologies that enable it are just tools to delight your internal and external customers. Connection would be thrilled to support your journey. Engage Connection’s Retail Practice or your Account Team today to get started!

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Apple’s Modernized Deployment Strategies... https://community.connection.com/apples-modernized-deployment-strategies-for-hybrid-work/ Oct 13, 2023 Chris Roux https://community.connection.com/author/chris-roux/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2363868-Apple-Deployment-Stategies-BLOG.jpg

In an increasingly digital world, Apple products have become ubiquitous in businesses of all sizes and across diverse industries. Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch are being leveraged in ways that were once unimaginable. Today, we delve into Apple’s modernized deployment strategies for hybrid work, focusing on their commitment to user experience, security, and overall efficiency.

Ensuring User-centricity and Security

Apple’s success in the corporate world can be attributed to its unwavering dedication to enhancing user experience while maintaining the highest standards of security. Apple recognizes the concerns of its customers—especially when it comes to security—and has taken significant steps to make Mac one of the most secure computing platforms.

Over the past decade, Apple has introduced a range of security features to the Mac, including anti-malware protections, system integrity protection, and hardware integration with Touch ID. These measures, coupled with free annual updates, have fortified Mac security while preserving the user experience. With the advent of Apple Silicon, Mac users can enjoy even greater security and faster security updates, ensuring their devices remain protected in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Deployment and Management for the Hybrid Work Era

As businesses increasingly adopt hybrid work models, the importance of effective deployment and management of a device platform like Mac has never been more critical. Apple offers a comprehensive approach to streamline these processes.

Apple Business Manager: The journey begins with Apple Business Manager, a free service designed to simplify deployments. It enables remote configuration and management of Apple devices, making it essential for organizations looking to achieve zero-touch deployment. By enrolling devices in Apple Business Manager, IT administrators gain the ability to assign and configure devices with ease.

Choosing the Right MDM Solution: It’s vital to select a mobile device management (MDM) solution that leverages Apple’s native APIs effectively. Mapping out your organization’s management requirements and evaluating MDM solutions against those needs is crucial. Additionally, selecting a vendor capable of keeping up with Apple’s annual OS updates is essential for maintaining security. Connection offers a great lineup of MDM solutions—including Jamf, VMware Workspace ONE, and Microsoft Intune.

Endpoint Security Framework: Apple’s Endpoint Security Framework offers a user-space replacement for low-level operating system event monitoring. Organizations should collaborate with security vendors that utilize this framework to stay on top of Apple’s security updates to minimize vulnerabilities.

Zero-touch Deployment: Zero-touch deployment automates the setup process for Mac, allowing for a seamless—and superior—user experience, right out of the box. It not only saves time but also ensures compliance and enhances security.

Closing Skill Gaps with Connection: Bridging the IT Divide

In the dynamic world of technology, staying ahead of the curve can be a daunting task for many organizations. Rapid advancements, new security threats, and evolving user expectations mean that IT departments often face skill gaps that can hinder their ability to fully harness the potential of Apple’s innovative solutions. At Connection, the focus is not just on providing technology but also on becoming a strategic partner in your digital journey. Here’s how Connection can help you close those skill gaps and ensure your IT team is always in sync with the latest advancements.

Expertise at Your Fingertips: With Connection, you gain access to a team of seasoned professionals who live and breathe technology. Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, our experts are here to assist. We understand that the IT landscape can be overwhelming, and our goal is to simplify it for you.

Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC): Located in Wilmington, Ohio, our state-of-the-art TIDC spans 50,000 square feet. This center is not just a facility; it’s where we transform your IT vision into reality. From provisioning and configuring devices to managing large-scale deployments, the TIDC is equipped to handle it all. Our experience includes provisioning and deploying some of the largest Apple device deployments on record—so you can trust us to handle your project with precision.

Jamf Managed Service Provider: As a Jamf Managed Service Provider, we offer a comprehensive suite of services that extends beyond device provisioning. We can help you implement identity and security services such as Jamf Connect and Jamf Protect. Our expertise in these solutions ensures that your Apple ecosystem remains secure and user-friendly.

Warranty and Advanced Services: Our support doesn’t stop at deployment. We offer in- and out-of-warranty repair services through the TIDC, ensuring that your devices stay in optimal condition. Additionally, our advanced services portfolio includes options like advanced exchange and re-deployment, further enhancing the longevity and efficiency of your Apple devices.

Tailored Solutions for Your Industry: Whether you’re in business solutions, enterprise, public sector, retail, or healthcare, Connection has industry-specific expertise to cater to your unique needs. We understand that each sector comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities, and our solutions are designed to align with your goals.

Continuous Learning and Collaboration: Technology is an ever-evolving field, and staying current is imperative. Connection facilitates ongoing learning and collaboration opportunities for your IT team. We offer training sessions, workshops, and knowledge sharing to ensure your team remains up to date with the latest trends and best practices.

Connect with Us

Technology can make or break business success. Having a partner like Connection by your side is invaluable. We go beyond providing hardware and services; we empower your organization to thrive in the digital age.

Whether you’re facing skill gaps in your IT department, need assistance with a complex deployment, or simply want to ensure your technology investments are delivering maximum value, Connection is here to calm the confusion of IT. Our mission is to become your IT department’s IT department, so your organization can fully embrace the benefits of Apple’s modernized deployment strategies and succeed in the hybrid work era. Embrace the future of IT with confidence, supported by a partner you can trust.

To learn more about how we can help you close skill gaps and elevate your IT capabilities, visit Connection’s Apple Practice or reach out to your dedicated Connection Account Team today.  

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Changes Coming to Microsoft’s CSP https://community.connection.com/changes-coming-to-microsofts-csp/ Oct 12, 2023 Carrie Pecoraro https://community.connection.com/author/carrie-alicata/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2356200-Changes-Coming-to-CSP-BLOG.jpg

Over the past few years, Microsoft has been slowly replacing its legacy CSP offers with the New Commerce Experience, known as NCE. Microsoft is concluding this transition with the last step of phasing out legacy seat-based licensing in the commercial space and the introduction of NCE into the public sector. 

Beginning in 2024, NCE offers will be available for non-profit, government community cloud, and academic customers. All legacy subscriptions must migrate to NCE upon their 2024 renewal date. Please stay tuned for additional timeline updates as we receive them.

What Is New Commerce Experience and What Does It Mean for Your Organization?

New Commerce Experience, in a nutshell, is an updated set of terms and offers available to CSP customers. Customers can choose to maintain much of the flexibility with monthly commitment options, which allow them to make changes or cancel subscriptions upon each monthly renewal, or they can maintain current pricing by choosing an annual commitment term with either annual or monthly installments. Limited products are available for purchase as a three-year commitment, including Defender Threat Intelligence, Microsoft Sales Copilot, Teams Room Pro, and many Dynamics 365 offers.

Microsoft will be migrating all customers to an annual term with the same billing frequency (monthly or annual) that customers have in legacy today if no action is taken prior to their renewal date. In advance of your 2024 renewals, coordinate with your Connection Account Team to discuss your options and make sure the path forward is the best fit for your organization.

What Are the Benefits of Moving to NCE for My Company?

While one of the key differences between the legacy CSP terms and the NCE terms does include replacing the ability for customers to reduce their license count at any time with a 7-day reduction window upon their monthly, annual, or triennial renewal, there are many other features that make NCE stand out. 

Some of these features include the ability to align renewal dates between different subscriptions, either upon initial purchase or by scheduling this change in advance of renewal, purchasing add-on subscriptions independently of the parent product it is linked to, and upgrading products in the middle of your commitment term. Additionally, Microsoft offers the ability to enable overages for the minutes included in your calling plans so you can be billed in arrears instead of having to add credits prior to going over your minutes. For more information, please reach out to your Connection Account Team today, and engage the vast wealth of knowledge from within our Cloud Center of Excellence to find out how Connection can introduce you to the New Commerce Experience and take your projects to the next level.

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The Power of User Profiling and... https://community.connection.com/the-power-of-user-profiling-and-connections-premium-landscape-optimization-process/ Oct 10, 2023 Laura Cox https://community.connection.com/author/laura-cox/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2355519-The-Power-of-User-Profiling-Blog.jpg

In today’s technology driven world, Microsoft licensing can be highly complex. Trying to figure out which product suites contain all the functionality and feature sets your organization needs can be challenging. The old adage of a “one-size-fits-all” mentality in technology is not smart, cost effective, or productive. Especially now, when Microsoft offers so many Office suites, both on premises and in the cloud. Why wouldn’t you want to map out the correct product needs for each user group inside your company based on actual needs and usage?

There is real value in understanding your customer and all the different user groups within your organization. To know which products they are using—and what they truly need to do their jobs and to do them well—is imperative. Take, for example, the CEO of a global company. He may have specific Microsoft product needs that would require a Microsoft 365 E5 license for availability and extra security when he travels. Or we can break it down by vertical—say manufacturing—where you can have a floor worker who shares a kiosk workstation with other users during opposite shifts. These users may need Microsoft 365 F3 as they use Office Online only. In that same manufacturing example, you have Finance and HR, which would typically fall into your general knowledge user, so Microsoft 365 E3 might be the right fit for them. As we see our customers make these key decisions, it’s important to understand these end-user use cases to map the correct technologies to the correct people with precision. 

That’s where my team comes in. The XLO Team offers User Profiling Workshops as part of our Microsoft Landscape Optimization (MLO) Premium Assessment. Through a series of workshops, the MLO Premium Assessment will provide clarity and insight on your Microsoft investment strategy, while also showing a tactical approach based on your options. Evolving technology as well as the variations of modern work environments—such as virtualization, supporting a remote or hybrid workforce, security, and cloud—make these strategic decisions more important than ever for successful outcomes, and user profiling is a big part of that process.

During the User Profile Workshop, we talk with customers about how to define the various types of Microsoft users in their organization. Based on needs and usage, we map out various cost scenarios—taking into account current and future projects—to help determine which products are best suited for them and the most cost-effective option available. We are able to compare the costs associated with the Office suite with the required additional products of the top-tier Microsoft suites. From a return-on-investment standpoint, when customers go through this profiling workshop, we tend to see a much higher technology adoption rate and greater collaboration in Teams, leading to increased business efficiencies.

The next time you’re faced with a big Microsoft decision such as an agreement renewal, it’s vital to take a step back and look at your people and how they use their Microsoft technology. These technologies evolve by the day, so it's important to understand your options by breaking it down to the core of who needs what tools to succeed. You’ll have happy people, with the latest technologies at their fingertips, driving efficiency and profitability for your organization!

Reach out to your Connection Account Team for more information on the User Profiling Workshop and our Microsoft Landscape Optimization Premium Assessment. For more information, check out our vlog below.

https://youtu.be/4g5Ij5-1Ks4

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Top Ten Technology Product Picks for October... https://community.connection.com/top-ten-technology-product-picks-for-october-2023/ Oct 09, 2023 Wilson Nunnari https://community.connection.com/author/wilson-nunnari/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2350054-Oct-Top-Products-BLOG.jpg

As we transition into fall and the weather continues to change, check out these top products of the month for great deals for school and work readiness. This month, Connection presents some of our best monitors and storage to get you and your business ready for autumn. Read our Monitor Buying Guide and Storage Buying Guide to help you make the smartest investment for your work life. Check back often for our most popular technology products and the best deals Connection finds for you.


MSI Gaming Monitor

  • 24" curved display
  • FreeSync technology
  • HDMI, DisplayPort connectors
  • 3000:1 contrast ratio

Get the best visuals on your victory with the MSI Gaming Monitor. With FreeSync technology and a fast refresh rate, this MSI monitor can keep up with your fastest game play. And a high contrast ratio means stunning visuals and sharp colors so you can always see what’s around the next corner. Pick up this powerful gaming monitor today and save big! Check out our Gaming Technology page for more gaming considerations and solutions.


1TB Seagate LaCie Rugged Portable Hard Drive

  • Drop, liquid, and crush resistance
  • 130Mbps data transfer rate
  • USB-C port

Protect your data with a rugged and portable external hard drive. Featuring a USB-C connector, the LaCie 1TB external drive has fast data transfer and is compatible with the latest computers. Its rugged design ensures your data stays safe with resistance to drops, liquid damage, and being crushed.


23.8" Dell HD Monitor

  • 23.8" widescreen display
  • 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • HDMI, DisplayPort, USB Type A and B

Supersize your desktop with a 23.8" Dell monitor. With its widescreen display, this monitor will enable you to multitask like never before. It features all the latest ports with HDMI and multiple versions of USB—in addition to its power connector. It also has the ability to reduce blue light with ComfortView Plus technology, saving your eyes and keeping you focused.


Logitech Wireless Desktop Keyboard and Mouse

  • Concave keys
  • Cushioned palm rest
  • USB Type A wireless receiver

Enhance your typing comfort with the Logitech Wireless Keyboard. It features concave keys, a comfort-enhancing cushion palm rest, and hyper-fast scrolling on the included mouse. All these features will improve your comfort and enhance your productivity.


14" HP EliteBook 845 G9 Laptop

  • 16GB RAM
  • 512GB storage
  • USB Type A and C, HDMI 2.0, and stereo connectors

Featuring an AMD Ryzen 7 processor, the HP EliteBook 845 G9 has the power to help you get your work done with ease. This rugged business laptop features enhanced system and graphic performance and is ideal for mobile professionals. It perfects conferencing capabilities with HP Presence and supercharges your productivity on the go.


6TB Western Digital My Book Desktop

  • USB 3.0 connector
  • Up to 5Gbps data transfer speed
  • Password protection with hardware encryption

Get all the storage you will ever need with the WD 6TB Desktop Hard Drive. Compatible with Apple and Windows software, this hard drive has all the space you need for important files, photos, and videos and can be set to back up automatically in accordance with your schedule.


27" LG 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD Monitor

  • 27" 4K UHD display
  • HDMI, DisplayPort, USB Type C and A, stereo connectors
  • FreeSync Technology

This 27" LG Monitor is a powerhouse that features everything you need in a widescreen monitor. Amazing graphics with 4K Ultra HD resolution will accurately display anything you want. And the dual integrated speakers let you listen easily. And with great savings, you can enjoy all this technology without breaking the bank!


1TB WD Elements USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive

  • USB Type A and C connectors
  • Up to 500Mbps transfer speeds
  • Small and light form factor for portability

The WD 1TB Elements Portable Hard Drive is a highly portable, technologically advanced external drive. Featuring USB 3.0, it has reliable and fast data transfer rates and universal connectivity. It offers great value and enough storage for almost any user!


Logitech K350 Wireless Keyboard

  • USB Type A wireless connector
  • Contoured palm rest
  • Wave sculpted keys

Look no further than the Logitech K350 Keyboard for a feature-packed wireless keyboard at a great value. Its ergonomic shape will prevent fatigue, and the palm rest delivers comfort for a long work day. Plus, it conveniently connects to your computer with a plug-and-play USB-A connector.


Brother HL-L2350DW Compact Laser Printer

  • Print speeds up to 32 ppm
  • 250-sheet capacity
  • Two-sided printing
  • Built-in wireless connectivity

The Brother Compact Laser Printer is a great value for compact productivity. With print speeds of up to 32 pages per minute and automatic two-sided printing, this printer will solve all your printing needs. It has a 250-sheet capacity, improving efficiency with fewer refills. Save today with this high-value printer!


Connection offers the best deals and variety of technology products for your work or home office. As we get further into fall, the preceding products will upgrade any professional space at a great value. For additional great products check out our Business Technology page.

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The Power of Partnering with a Pro for AV... https://community.connection.com/the-power-of-partnering-with-a-pro-for-av-solution-success/ Oct 05, 2023 Jim Carter https://community.connection.com/author/james-carter/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/2343271-Blog-Post-CTS-D-BLOG.png

Organizations are adopting AV and conference room solutions at a rapid rate. The rise in hybrid work—along with technological advancements making AV solutions simpler and more affordable—are contributing to the growth of AV solutions.

As the adoption of these new technologies grows, so do the accompanying complications and risks. Organizations that do not work with an expert when designing and implementing their AV solutions risk ineffective and inefficient setups, wasted resources, security events, and more.

Connection can help overcome these challenges by providing customized, intuitive AV solutions. As Certified Technology Specialists, our expertise helps to ensure a seamless and successful AV implementation.

The Rise in Demand for Conference Room AV Solutions

The pro AV market is poised to grow by 90.51 billion USD from 2020 to 2025, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.31%. We are seeing similar growth at Connection. In 2021, our Digital Signage Practice (DSP) achieved 41% growth, its highest sales level since its inception in 2008. 

This growth can be primarily attributed to two factors: the rise in hybrid and flexible workplaces, as well as the advancements in AV technology helping to make solutions simpler and more affordable.

Flexible and Hybrid Workforces 

The rise of hybrid workforces is one factor we’ve seen that’s led to an increased reliance on AV and conference rooms. With more than half of workers now hybrid, companies need reliable and effective tools for remote collaboration, virtual meetings, and seamless communication between on-site and remote teams. 

Although there is a greater need for collaboration technology to enhance the hybrid work experience, the quality of that technology remains lacking. In fact, less than 8% of the 90 million conference rooms worldwide are currently video enabled. As hybrid workforces continue to proliferate, organizations will need to adopt AV solutions that will allow all of their workers to feel like they are able to contribute in meetings equally—no matter where they are working.

Technology Advancements

Advancements in conference room technology is another factor that’s fueling the implementation of new AV solutions. High-resolution displays, improved audio systems, and other new technologies have all transformed the conference room experience. These innovations provide better quality, greater flexibility, and enhanced user experiences.

These upgrades have made AV solutions simpler and easier to use. For example, a separate piece of hardware used to be necessary to convert the video signal for streaming capabilities. Now, that can be done internally, by either a PC or as part of the internal compute of a complete sound bar solution.

AV technological advancements have also led to cost savings. While AV technology was once associated with high costs, advancements have made it more accessible and affordable. As prices for quality AV equipment decrease, a wider range of businesses can afford to integrate AV solutions.

Why Expertise Matters: The Complexities of AV/Conference Room Setup

Navigating the complexities of AV/IT conference room setup has become increasingly intricate. From selecting the right equipment to ensuring compatibility, optimal performance, and user-friendly interfaces, the end-to-end process can be fraught with risks—without the guidance of an expert. 

Risks of AV Design Without Expert Input

These are some of the specific setbacks that organizations who attempt to design and implement AV solutions on their own face.

Wasted Time and Decreased Productivity

Time and productivity in meetings consistently get squandered due to inefficient conference room equipment. In fact, around 15% of time spent in meetings is wasted, primarily due to inefficient conference room equipment. Difficulties like connecting to a display, launching video calls, or switching presenters during virtual meetings all waste time and productivity. 

Incompatible Equipment

Purchasing incompatible equipment that doesn’t work well with existing systems can result in frustrating issues like poor audio and video quality—or even complete system failures—during meetings. There are also several different idiosyncrasies that you may not be aware of until you’ve had the experience of designing multiple conference room spaces. 

For example, Teams only allows one camera, while Zoom allows multiple. If an organization decides down the road that they’d like to switch from Zoom to Teams, they’d only be able to access one of their cameras. Working with an expert ensures you’re up to date on these types of features of different systems, and that your new technology will work optimally with your existing setup. 

Purchasing the Wrong Equipment

Not purchasing the right equipment for the right space is another common pitfall. For example, organizations may not have the appropriate audio for the size of the conference room or experience an echo due to digital signal processing. They also risk not getting the right-sized display for their current setup, so people in certain areas have a hard time seeing the visual.

Incorrectly purchased equipment can result in wasted financial resources. You might end up spending money on components that don't meet your needs or can't be integrated into your existing infrastructure. 

For example, our AV/IT team recently worked with a company that experienced issues with their wiring diagram after working with a distribution partner. Since their issues weren’t fully apparent until after their 60-day warranty had ended, they had to pay for someone else to fix it. In addition to that added cost, they also spent a significant amount of time swapping out equipment that was bought as a mistake. 

Security Risks

AV equipment can be vulnerable to security risks. Without proper security measures, your AV system could become a potential entry point for cyberattacks. 

Experts can help to ensure you have essential security measures such as encryption, firewall configurations, or intrusion detection systems. They can also identify potential security vulnerabilities and set up proper access controls and authentication protocols to safeguard your systems. 

Navigating the Maze: How a Professional AV/IT Partner Can Help

Entrusting these tasks to an expert partner not only mitigates potential risks, but also guarantees a tailored solution that aligns precisely with your specific business needs.

Connection offers an extension to their well-established Digital Signage Practice, the  Collaboration and AV/IT practice segment. As such, we are able to provide a comprehensive solution and strategy, from design to deployment. These are the steps we take to ensure success.

Expert Assessments

Our team starts with a consultation to assess your space and needs for optimal AV setup. We take into consideration such factors as: how to best design a solution in accordance with the shape of the room, how many speakers to use in a room of a certain dimension, how far away a person would need to be to see a certain display, etc. Understanding these intricacies in advance ensures a smoother implementation process down the line.

Vendor-agnostic Recommendations

After assessing the space, we then select the best technology for your specific needs. This is based on our deep understanding of the latest AV equipment, their features, and their compatibility. 

We are vendor agnostic, so we deliver unbiased recommendations as to what makes the most sense for specific needs. This ensures a more seamless integration process and the best possible performance in the end. 

Customized Solutions

Depending on your unique requirements, we’ll design customized solutions that are tailored to meet specific needs. We focus on creating the most user-friendly interfaces and workflows by designing intuitive control systems that make it easy for users to operate the AV equipment, minimizing the learning curve and maximizing user adoption.

The Certified Technology Specialist: Ensuring Excellence

When selecting an AV partner, one of the most important elements to consider is whether they hold the CTS (Certified Technology Specialist) certification. In fact, according to the AVIXA® META: Pro-AV Channel Employment Reportmore than 80% of firms prefer or require CTS holders for higher level engineering and technician positions. 

To assure our clients that our specialists meet the highest industry standards, Connection’s Digital Signage, Collaboration, and AV/IT Practice regularly seeks out new certifications for its team of Business Development Specialists.

Recently, digital signage expert Jim Carter, Sr. Business Specialist for Collaboration and AV/IT, acquired the CTS-D (Design) certification. This specialized certificate has a pass rate of only 58% and ensures that clients receive the advanced design skills needed for complex AV projects that involve designing intricate and integrated systems.

Future-Proof Your AV Solutions with Connection

Professional AV/IT services are an essential investment in today’s evolving work landscape. With increasingly flexible work arrangements, well-designed AV spaces help to enhance collaboration and productivity, no matter where employees are working from.However, the complexity of AV design cannot be underestimated. The risks of implementing AV solutions without an AV/IT expert are substantial. That’s where Connection can help. Our expertise as Certified Technology Specialists ensures seamless, tailor-made, and intuitive AV solutions for future-ready conference rooms.

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Migrate to the Cloud with Azure VMware Solution https://community.connection.com/migrate-to-the-cloud-with-azure-vmware-solution/ Sep 29, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/1985808-AzureVM-BLOG-Feature-Image.jpg

Do you have a cloud migration strategy in place? With so many options and considerations, it can be an overwhelming process to say the least. Imagine a way to support an expanding remote workforce and the ability to anticipate data center changes all while seamlessly modernizing your workloads and remaining consistent in your operations. 

Built by Microsoft, the Azure VMware Solution (AVS) constructs a fast track to the cloud by migrating or extending existing VMware workloads from on-premises environments to Azure without the cost, effort, or risk of retooling operations. The struggle for organizations relying on on-premises infrastructures has always been keeping up with changes on-demand. AVS lets you move your workloads from your data center to Azure, thereby integrating additional Azure services while continuing to manage your IT environments with the same VMware tools and functionality you already know and love. Because you can choose which workloads to migrate and when, you are given flexibility to accelerate your cloud migration at your own pace.

Top Benefits 

Reduced IT Costs: Azure Hybrid Benefit can save you up to 80% by running your VMware apps on Windows Server and SQL Server licenses with Software Assurance to Azure VMware Solution. You can also receive free extended security updates for Windows Server and SQL Server 2008 and 2012 licenses with Software Assurance for three-plus years after the End of Extended Support date. Reduce costs even further by selecting one- or three-year Reserved Instances for Azure VMware Solution.

Data Center Consolidation: Consolidate your data center footprint when you reduce or retire your VMware-based virtual machines using a one-time redeployment. You can shift any or all vSphere workloads to Azure in a scalable, automated, and nondisruptive way and be assured of operational continuity without the complexity of refactoring.

Application Modernization: With AVS, you can keep managing your migrated environments with the same VMware tools you already know, while you are modernizing your applications with Azure-native management, security, and services. It's a simple and flexible way to take on modernization at your leisure. 

Security: AVS is Azure, so you can run your VMware platforms while feeling secure in your ability to protect your workloads with built-in controls and services across identity, data, networking, and apps. You will also get continuous protection from Microsoft Defender for Cloud. Security is always top of mind when supporting remote and hybrid workers and with more sophisticated threats on the rise, it is understandable to have concerns. Extend protection to hybrid environments and easily integrate partner solutions in Azure. 

Disaster Recovery: Did you know that by using a VMware Stack deployed in Azure, you are automatically setting up an on-demand disaster recovery site for an on-premises data center? The VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) brings proven data recovery capabilities to Azure VMware Solution by offering a streamlined experience for installation and lifecycle management directly through the Azure portal.

Ready to Get Started?

Our Connection Cloud Specialists are here to help you begin your journey. We will work with you to create, plan, implement, and expand your Azure environment using the same VMware tools and functionality you already know, allowing you to streamline and modernize your environment at your own pace. 

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Windows 11 Pro Devices: Your Cybersecurity... https://community.connection.com/windows-11-pro-devices-your-cybersecurity-guardian-in-the-hybrid-era/ Sep 27, 2023 Ashley Lofaro https://community.connection.com/author/ashley-lofaro/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2336221-Windows11ProDevicesCybersecurity-BLOG.jpg

Hybrid or “anywhere” work has become commonplace for business and technology professionals. Yet, this increased accessibility and flexibility in work locations have also ushered in a wave of new threats and risks.

Three quarters of security decision makers at the VP level and above feel the move to hybrid work leaves their organization more vulnerable to security threats. And cybersecurity issues and risks are top concerns for business leaders, who worry about issues like malware, stolen credentials, devices that lack security updates, and physical attacks on lost or stolen devices.

New Windows 11 Pro devices are well-positioned to take on these security challenges brought on by the new era of hybrid work. With simple deployment and advanced security protection, the time to upgrade to Windows 11 is now.

Windows 11 Pro Upgrade: A Simple and Seamless Deployment

Windows 11 Pro is built on the same foundational architecture as Windows 10, providing the basis for a smooth and straightforward upgrade. Additionally, Microsoft has designed Windows 11 Pro to be compatible with 99.7% of apps, meaning that practically all of the apps you're used to on your previous OS will continue to work.

Neglecting OS version updates is especially inadvisable. Once an update has been released, OS vendors only continue supporting the previous version for a limited time. This will soon be the case for Windows 10 as a whole; end of support for Windows 10 is on October 14, 2025.

To ensure a seamless upgrade by the designated time, companies should initiate the process now. This begins with ensuring that you have the necessary foundation, which entails addressing two key questions: "Do we possess the required hardware?" and "Will our apps be compatible?"

Do We Have the Necessary Hardware?

Windows 11 needs to operate on relatively newer hardware. Here’s an overview of some of the key minimum requirements:

  • RAM: 4 gigabytes or more
  • Processor: Minimum of 1 gigahertz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor
  • TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. Check here for instructions on how your PC might be enabled to meet this requirement.
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with Windows Display Driver Model 2.0
  • Display resolution: High-definition (720p) display that is greater than 9" diagonally

See the full list of Windows 11 requirements, including feature-specific requirements like a sensor for presence detection, and a speaker and microphone for modern work. To easily check for compatibility, you can run Microsoft’s PC Health Check app.

Are My Apps Compatible?

After verifying that your hardware and systems meet the Windows 11 requirements, the next step is to determine if your apps will be compatible with Windows 11 Pro.

Fortunately, Windows 11 Pro is designed with 99.7% compatibility, so virtually all the apps you were accustomed to using on your previous operating systems will continue to function seamlessly. For Windows 10 users, line-of-business software is also compatible.

For added assurance of compatibility, the App Assure program was designed to assist Microsoft users in resolving any application compatibility issues before upgrading to Windows 11 Pro. Moreover, Test Base helps businesses to validate and test their applications on secure virtual machines before transitioning to Windows 11 Pro.

Windows 11 Pro Devices: Powerful Security from Chip to Cloud

Companies can receive the best security protection by deploying new modern Windows 11 Pro devices with security protection built in.

With phishing safeguards, passwordless security, and app control, organizations report a 58% drop in security incidents with Windows 11 Pro devices compared to Windows 10. Additionally, 2.8 times fewer instances of identity theft are reported.

Built upon the zero-trust model, modern Windows 11 Pro devices focus on giving the right people the right access at the right time, based on these three core principles:

  1. Verify explicitly: Reduce risk by explicitly verifying data points such as user identity, location, and device health for every access request, without exception.
  2. Use least privileged access: When verified, give people and devices access to only necessary resources for the necessary amount of time.
  3. Assume breach: Operate in a manner that minimizes blast radius and segment access. Vary end-to-end encryption, and use analytics to get visibility, drive threat detection, and improve defenses.

Windows 11 Pro Devices: Security at Every Level

In line with the zero-trust model, new modern Windows 11 Pro devices build security in to every level—from the core of your PC, all the way to the cloud. Below are some of the new security features and capabilities in Windows 11 Pro

Hardware

Receive built-in hardware protection out of the box with Windows 11 Pro devices through:

  • Hardware root-of-trust: Protect critical resources such as Windows Hello with a hardware-based root of trust. Windows Defender System Guard helps protect and maintain the integrity of the system as it starts up and validates that system integrity has truly been maintained through local and remote attestation.
  • TPM 2.0: The tamper-proof Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is now standard in today’s Windows 11 Pro devices. This chip provides specialized encryption features and enables upgraded cutting-edge security functions.
  • Microsoft Pluton: Microsoft Pluton offers extra protection for data-sensitive scenarios. Pluton technology is integrated directly into the PC's processor, hardening new Windows 11 Pro devices with ongoing protection for identities, data, and applications.
  • Virtualization-based security: To safeguard user credentials and essential system functions, virtualization-based security (VBS) and hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI) are already enabled on new Windows 11 Pro devices. VBS protects against malicious exploits by hosting a secure kernel separated from the operating system.
  • Secured-core PCs: Secured-core PCs come with the advanced security features of Windows 11 Pro turned on, protecting your most sensitive data from advanced firmware-level attacks. These devices are recommended for people handling sensitive data like intellectual property, financial records, or classified information.

Operating System

Guard your system and information from the moment it starts up with these Windows 11 Pro measures:

  • System security: Powerful system security safeguards credentials, code integrity, and network access. When a Windows 11 Pro device starts, Secure Boot and Trusted Boot work together to prevent malware and corrupted components from loading.
  • Virus and threat protection: Windows 11 Pro delivers intelligent protection against viruses and other threats. One of the ways is through the vulnerable driver blocklist, enabled by default on new devices, which prevents vulnerable versions of drivers from running.
  • Network security: Windows 11 Pro offers multiple layers of protection to strengthen network security. Windows Defender Firewall is one that reduces the attack surface of a device, safeguards sensitive data, and extends the value of existing investments.
  • Encryption and data protection: BitLocker and Windows Information Protection reduce the risk of lost or stolen data with advanced encryption.

Application

Combat common application attacks from the moment a device is provisioned with app security features such as:

  • Smart App Control: Adding significant protection from new and emerging threats, new Windows 11 Pro devices automatically ship with Smart App Control to block malicious or untrusted apps.
  • Defender Application Guard: Using virtualization-based security (VBS), Application Guard isolates untrusted websites and Microsoft Office files in containers.
  • Defender Application Control: To control what apps and drivers run on managed Windows 11 Pro devices, Windows Defender Application Control (WDAC) isolates enterprise-defined untrusted websites in virtual containers and helps prevent old and newly emerging attacks.

Identity

Protect access to sensitive information and safeguard identities with the latest security innovations like:

  • Enhanced phishing protection: Enhanced phishing protection with Microsoft Defender SmartScreen helps thwart credential theft by warning users when they enter their Microsoft credentials into a malicious website.
  • Passwordless security: Windows Hello for Business allows you to lose the passwords and sign in with PIN, face, or fingerprint.

Cloud

Extend security to the cloud to help protect devices, data, apps, and identities from anywhere. Some capabilities include:

  • Modern Device Management (MDM): Windows 11 Pro devices support MDM so that IT pros can manage company security policies and business applications without compromising user privacy on corporate or employee-owned devices. Connection partners with Microsoft to offer MDM services that help organizations improve security and service delivery while ensuring that all devices comply with corporate rules and policies.
  • Remote wipe: Windows 11 Pro devices support the Remote Wipe configuration service provider (CSP) so that MDM solutions can remotely reset the device and remove user accounts and data, reset the device and clean the drive, and reset the device but persist user accounts and data in the case of a lost or stolen device.

Securely Embrace the Future of Work with Windows 11 Pro Devices

As hybrid workforces grow and cyber threats advance, Windows 11 Pro emerges not just as an upgrade, but on new modern devices, as a guardian of your security. With simple deployment and advanced security protection—from your PC all the way to the cloud—Windows 11 Pro devices provide the assurance you need to enable secure hybrid work.

To learn more about how Connection can help with your Windows 11 Pro device refresh, contact us today.

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It’s All about the GPUs https://community.connection.com/its-all-about-the-gpus/ Sep 26, 2023 James Rust https://community.connection.com/author/james-rust/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2334614-BH-GPU-Manufacturing-BLOG.png

GPU usage in the data center has been steadily growing for the past few years and now accounts for 46.1% of the revenue share in the data center.1 This number is only expected to go up—and with good reason. The parallel processing power of a GPU is exponentially greater than that of a CPU: a typical CPU has less than a hundred cores, while GPUs can have thousands. Their high bandwidth allows them to access data quickly and complete processing for complex computations far better than a traditional CPU. All these advantages have changed the landscape in data processing, but a GPU in a data center is no longer enough.

GPUs at the Edge

Thanks to the incredible amount of data generated by industry 4.0 technology, computations have been moved to the edge to save bandwidth and lower energy consumption. By offloading computationally intensive tasks to GPUs, edge devices can improve their performance and responsiveness while reducing the amount of data that needs to be sent to the cloud. Naturally, GPUs have started to see higher use at the edge, especially when processing data generated from smart cameras, self-driving cars, and medical devices.  In many cases, these computations need to be processed as quickly as possible to make real-time decisions. As a result, GPUs have seen increasing usage. 

Quicker Decisions 

This kind of computational power enables the processing of 2D images (nothing more than a large data set to a computer), allowing computer vision applications to function. For example, GPUs can process images and videos from smart cameras in real time. This can be used for facial recognition, object detection, quality control, and traffic monitoring tasks. GPUs can also be used to analyze data from industrial robots to improve their performance and safety. As edge computing grows, GPUs will play an increasingly important role in enabling these and other applications in manufacturing. GPU prices are dropping, but this trend may not last with the rise of AI applications in business. Investing in the data center now may be the best bet for those looking to take full advantage of the promise of Industry 4.0.

Collaboration Is the Key to Implementing Complex Solutions

Bringing GPUs to the edge is by no means easy. High-performance tools generally demand more energy and space, and GPUs are no exception. Another challenge is the high heat generated by the devices, and plenty of factory floors still lack climate control. It can be difficult to consider everything when outfitting a new solution, which is why Connection works with so many partners to ensure our customers have everything they need from the right edge compute solutions inclusive of fanless and industrial hardware designed to perform in any manufacturing environment. 

If you’re looking for ways to decrease your data cost or need to ramp up your infrastructure for industry 4.0 applications, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice today to get started. 

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Modernize Your Data Center with AMD https://community.connection.com/modernize-your-data-center-with-amd/ Sep 26, 2023 Ephraim Gehr https://community.connection.com/author/ephraim-gehr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2339548-Modernize-Your-Data-Center-with-AMD-BLOG.jpg

There are three major pain points that customers are facing in their environment. Software licensing costs, heating/cooling costs, and green initiatives are on the top of everyone’s mind. The push to maintain a higher level of service while reducing operating costs is a driving reason we look to new technologies for answers. Corporate green initiatives mean every watt must be utilized efficiently. Cuts must be made to consumption of resources.

Overpaying for Software Licensing Fees

Software licensing fees are based on the number of cores you have in a server. It’s well known that software licensing costs are ten to forty times more than the cost of the server on which it resides. If we can reduce the core count while maintaining the required performance of your server, we can save your company a great deal on software fees. Condensing more performance into the latest 5nm based 4th gen AMD EPYC™ processors allows us to do precisely that. This can be accomplished in server offerings from all the major server OEMs. Use this savings to refresh a cluster or to upgrade software to solutions that provide more automation and reduce maintenance demands on your IT department staff. Bottom line—use the latest technology from AMD to improve your operating efficiencies.

Consuming Too Much Power and Cooling for Data Centers

When a one processor system can accomplish more work than two, we reduce the number of cores. Doing so reduces the data center footprint. With the exponential increase in data businesses are generating, more can be housed in the same footprint. This drives down costs associated with real estate, power consumption, and cooling. And with AMD EPYC™ processors all in one feature, you get the same I/O, memory, and memory bandwidth to accomplish your goals—regardless of the number of cores you configure.

Meeting Company Sustainability Initiatives

More companies are adding green initiatives. Ken Bartels, AMD-focused Technical Sales Executive at Connection, has this to say: “When comparing integer performance for a recent large data center opportunity, we found that AMD Genoa (4th generation) over AMD Milan (3rd generation) has a 35% better performance per core in an example workload. AMD’s latest generation also provided a 22% improved performance per watt.” Using AMD’s TCO tool, we can calculate CO2 emissions you will reduce and kWh saved by making the move to advanced server solutions powered by AMD EPYC™. Let us help you attain those goals with the most efficient data center processors from AMD. You can learn more about how AMD helps meet sustainability goals on their blog.

Help Navigating Your Next Data Center Refresh Is Available

Whether it’s a single server or complete data center refresh, keeping data center costs down while delivering more value to your company is more critical to overall business success than ever before. Meeting more stringent green initiatives sets your company apart from competitors. AMD EPYC™ powered solutions from Connection can make those impacts to your TCO. Take a look at the newest case studies to see what EPYC is doing for customers like you. Get more information on AMD EPYC™ based data center solutions from Connection. Then reach out to your Account Manager and request an AMD TCO Analysis to get started.

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Flying the Friendly Skies with Microsoft Copilot https://community.connection.com/flying-the-friendly-skies-with-microsoft-copilot/ Sep 19, 2023 John Ryan https://community.connection.com/author/john-ryan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2329277-Microsoft-Blog.jpg

When I hear the word “copilot,” I immediately think about airplanes and passenger jets, and how flying a plane safely requires both a pilot and a copilot. In commercial aviation, there is a distinct rank and order between these two roles, with the pilot being a licensed, experienced professional, acting as the final decision-maker while onboard. They are tasked with remaining calm under pressure, operating, and controlling their aircraft according to planned flight paths and during takeoffs and landings—while simultaneously monitoring the numerous systems present and required to keep an airplane safely in the sky. The copilot has similar roles and responsibilities, most importantly that they take their orders from the pilot. Copilots can also fly the plane if the pilot is unavailable, take the lead on radio communications, assist with flight planning and navigation, acquire weather briefings, monitor the plane’s instruments and systems, and keep the pilot aware of the status of these details. Essentially, the pilot and copilot are responsible for moving an airplane and its contents from one defined place to the next.

When it comes to Microsoft Copilot, I see a similar division of labor between the human individual who is in charge of what information goes into their Microsoft environment (aka, the Microsoft Graph—made up of data in your Microsoft Cloud Services such as Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.) and what this individual tasks their copilot with via ChatGPT, the AI-powered Large Language Model chatbot and digital assistant. Taking this view helped me understand the meaning and power of Microsoft Copilot—and reduced my initial hesitation of using it!

You Will Always Be the Pilot

There is a certain creativity factor that we as human “pilots” bring to the forefront of what we do with our data that Microsoft Copilot will never have; this is the unmistakable difference between the human brain and AI. Microsoft Copilot does not make you smarter. You do not teach Copilot or make it smarter either—it does not learn from your data, your queries, or your inputs. Copilot does not make you more creative, but it can help you review and compile and format years and volumes of research into a more organized and easier to understand outline, or a rough draft. It does this by tapping into ChatGPT’s machine learning algorithms, which have been trained with data from the Internet.

Imagine the Possibilities of Working Together

Copilot is going to enable us to save so much time when searching for compelling, relevant information. But it is particularly important to note that getting the most from Copilot will require practice, particularly when wording requests. Copilot has no imagination, so you—the end user, the pilot—must use your creativity to get the most from Microsoft Copilot. Microsoft Copilot will access the data, your data, that has and always will contain the biases of the sources; however, the immeasurable benefits of harnessing the power of Microsoft Copilot within your organization will be worth your time and effort. Imagine being able to pull together and summarize hundreds of pages of text for your next research project, having help to create the first draft of your findings in a PowerPoint slide (even though you are terrible at PowerPoint), and then, translating it all into a language you have never spoken. The thought of that absolutely amazes me!

Outputs and creations like this clearly indicate how AI users will have an advantage over non-users, even though AI will always need guardrails in place to tease out biased or false information. The ability we have as the “pilots” to separate any false information from meaningful and actionable insights and put that into practice for the future good of humankind is truly a thing to behold. Stay tuned for more Copilot information from Connection.

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Tackling Tech Challenges with Our TIDC https://community.connection.com/tackling-tech-challenges-with-our-tidc/ Sep 12, 2023 Steven Crowthers https://community.connection.com/author/steven-crowthers/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2312822-TIDC-BLOG.jpg

Businesses today are experiencing a myriad of challenges as they attempt to configure, integrate, and deploy a high volume of new technologies. They are navigating complex integration processes, a lack of system standardization, resource constraints, legacy systems, cost overruns, and security concerns, among other obstacles. 

The escalating costs directly related to these challenges are significant. Poor integrations and lack of resources are costing businesses around $500,000 per year. For a more streamlined, scalable, and cost-effective configuration and integration process, organizations are in need of expert support.

Connection’s state-of-the-art Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC) is well-positioned to provide that support. With an unwavering level of commitment to customer success, we design completely customized and tailored solutions to address these key challenges.

Our success can be attributed to two key principles: taking a customer-centric approach and embracing lean manufacturing principles and agile operations. Ultimately, these processes yield big business benefits for our customers, including streamlined processes, increased security, and accelerated growth, among others. Here’s how our unique approach helps to make that happen.

The TIDC Recipe for Success: A Customer-centric Approach and Agile Operations

The TIDC is widely recognized as a leading IT services and solutions provider, in large part due to our two-prong approach: leading with customer-centric and customer experience models and embracing lean manufacturing principles and agile operations.

Customer-centric and Customer Experience Models

At the TIDC, our foremost priority is the satisfaction and success of our clients. We have developed a customer-centric and customer experience model that lies at the heart of our operations. This model includes four main components:

  • Proactive support: Anticipating customer needs and resolving issues before they become problems, helping to enhance customer satisfaction and reduce potential negative impacts on the customer experience.
  • Continuous improvement: Regularly analyzing customer feedback, metrics, and data to identify areas for improvement and continually refine the customer experience.
  • Empowered employees: Creating a customer-centric culture starts from within the organization. Empowering employees to take ownership of customer interactions and providing them with the necessary training and tools to deliver exceptional service.
  • Consistency and reliability: Building trust with customers by consistently delivering on promises and ensuring a reliable experience across all interactions.

Each customer has unique business objectives, technology infrastructure, and operational requirements. By deeply understanding our clients’ needs, preferences, and pain points, we can tailor our offerings to exceed their expectations consistently. This delivers more value and ensures that customers get the most out of their investments.

For example, we recently worked with a client that was operating in a highly regulated industry, facing stringent data security requirements during their system integration. The TIDC implemented robust security measures and compliance protocols, ensuring that all data exchanges were secure and in line with industry regulations.

Another enterprise client of ours had a complex IT landscape, with multiple legacy systems and modern applications that needed to communicate seamlessly. The TIDC’s deep expertise in handling diverse technologies enabled a successful integration, improving overall operational efficiency.

Because of the TIDC’s customer-centric approach, we were able to deliver tailored services and solutions that aligned seamlessly with our client’s business goals and optimized their end-user experience.

Lean Manufacturing Principles and Agile Operations

The TIDC has also embraced Lean Manufacturing Principles, a systematic approach to optimize processes and eliminate waste, ultimately improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. Several principles underpin Lean Manufacturing, and some of the key ones are:

  • 5S Methodology: The 5S methodology consists of five Japanese terms: Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in Order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize), and Shitsuke (Sustain). This principle aims to create a clean, organized, and standardized work environment, reducing wasted time and resources while enhancing safety and productivity.
  • Visualization Toolsets: Visual management tools are used to provide real-time information on key performance indicators (KPIs), progress, and issues. Visualizing data and processes helps teams identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and opportunities for improvement.
  • MDI (Managing for Daily Improvement): MDI involves conducting regular short meetings to discuss performance metrics and improvement initiatives. These daily huddles foster a culture of continuous improvement, enabling teams to address challenges promptly and make data-driven decisions. The process enables continuous enhancement of our workflows and ensures that we stay ahead of the curve.

We have gained remarkable benefits by integrating these principles into our operations, including:

  • Improved product quality: By reducing waste and streamlining processes, Lean Manufacturing helps maintain consistent product quality, ensuring customers receive reliable and defect-free products.
  • Faster delivery times: Lean principles optimize production and distribution processes, leading to faster turnaround times. Customers benefit from shorter lead times, receiving their orders promptly.

For example, we recently helped a client who had a tight deadline for integrating their new software with existing infrastructure. The TIDC’s quick deployment and efficient project management ensured a timely integration, preventing disruptions to their day-to-day operations.

  • Enhanced flexibility: Lean practices enable companies to respond quickly to changes in customer demand, allowing for greater flexibility in accommodating varying requirements.

For example, we recently worked with a client who required a scalable and cost-effective solution to integrate their e-commerce platform with their back-end inventory system. The TIDC’s scalable architecture enabled them to handle a growing customer base seamlessly, leading to increased sales and revenue.

  • Lower costs: By eliminating waste and inefficiencies, Lean Manufacturing reduces operating costs. This cost optimization can result in more competitive pricing for customers.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Consistent product quality, faster delivery, and better responsiveness contribute to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Customization: Lean principles can enable efficient customization of products and services, meeting individual customer needs effectively.

For example, a medium-sized enterprise that we recently worked with needed to integrate their CRM, ERP, and inventory management systems to optimize their operations. The TIDC’s expert team designed a custom integration solution that streamlined processes, resulting in a significant reduction in operational costs and improved customer satisfaction.

  • Sustainability: By reducing waste and resource consumption, Lean Manufacturing aligns with sustainability goals, appealing to environmentally-conscious customers.

Overall, the implementation of Lean Manufacturing principles benefits both companies and customers. It drives continuous improvement, streamlines processes, and ultimately delivers higher value products and services, ensuring a positive experience for customers.

Seamless and Affordable Technology Integrations Through  the TIDC

By leveraging a customer-centric experience model and Lean Manufacturing Principles, Connection has consistently driven success for our customers and allowed them to achieve better outcomes. Our approach not only has established the TIDC as a true differentiator in the IT services industry, but also enables us to exceed client expectations, deliver innovative solutions, and propel their business growth.

To discuss how the TIDC can bring value to your organization and support your IT services requirements, contact a Connection expert. We’ll help to streamline the configuration, deployment, and support of your IT today.

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TechSperience Episode 120: How to Modernize... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-120-how-to-modernize-your-data-center-and-save-big-with-amd/ Sep 09, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2339548-AMD-DataCenter-Podcast-BUZZ.jpg

Modernizing your data center is crucial to your organization's long-term success. In this podcast, we'll better define what data center modernization can look like for different organizations, talk through some of the ideas and promises from AMD, and offer up stories of where teams can succeed.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Kristin Hintlian – AMD Channel Sales Manager for Connection

Ken Bartels – Connection Technical Sales Executive for AMD

Show Notes:

[0:45] Modernization can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. What does a modern data center mean to customers?

[2:37] Are newer companies also looking to modernize due to how quickly the market is moving?

[4:40] What are some of the biggest and smallest data centers that you've been to, and how have they been able to modernize?

[7:00] What are the "people" challenges when modernizing data centers?

[11:40] Organizations are facing three big challenges surrounding data center modernization: needing better performance, reducing energy consumption, and reducing software licensing fees. How does AMD address these challenges?

[17:45] What cost savings in software licensing fees are customers seeing?

[19:35] Are there specific industries that are leading the modernization charge?

[21:50] What are some of the ways teams that have modernized with AMD have been able to push their healthcare organization forward?

[24:40] What are some examples in the manufacturing space where AMD has been able to help companies move forward?

[27:35] Walk us through some typical customer interactions in terms of how they can get an overall cost of ownership view of where they are at vs. adding new technologies.

[30:40] After the initial TCO analysis is completed, how can customers then get a good roadmap of how to get started based on their business goals?

[32:45] Reach out to your Connection account team for a TCO analysis to see what your data center modernization journey could look like.

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Azure Virtual Desktop: Connection Managed... https://community.connection.com/azure-virtual-desktop-connection-managed-services/ Sep 06, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/2314800-AVD-BLOG.jpg

How is your organization providing remote access to desktop environments?

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solution provided by Microsoft as part of the Azure cloud-computing program. It allows organizations to create and manage virtualized desktop environments in the cloud, enabling them to deliver Windows desktops and applications to end users on various devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. With so many organizations continuing to embrace hybrid working environments, AVD is a useful way to provide remote work solutions like delivering legacy applications, consistency across desktop experiences, and secure access to confidential and sensitive data. 

Key features of AVD that enable you to create a scalable and flexible environment:

  • Create a full desktop virtualization environment in your Azure subscription without running any gateway servers.
  • Publish host pools as needed to accommodate diverse workloads.
  • Bring your own image for production workloads or test from the Azure Gallery.
  • Reduce costs with pooled, multi-session resources. 
  • Provide individual ownership through personal (persistent) desktops.
  • Manage costs by using auto-scale to automatically increase or decrease capacity based on time of day, specific days of the week, or as demand changes.

Ready to Get Started?

Connection is a Microsoft-certified Azure Expert Managed Service Provider, and we are here to help you design, implement, and manage your AVD environment. Our AVD Managed Service supports your organization through five core components:

  1. Managed Implementation: Whether you need management for a new environment or an existing infrastructure, your Connection Account Team will configure and administer every aspect of your AVD. 
  2. Cost and Performance Optimization: We will help to auto-scale resources to make your performance more efficient, while reducing compute and storage costs by adjusting resources to user demand.
  3. Security and Compliance: By enabling Azure Active Directory multi-factor authentication (MFA) and conditional access, Connection will ensure that your environment is safe. We also provide network security, anti-virus configuration, and operating system patch management.
  4. Image Creation and Management: We will assist you in the creation of desktop images from gallery, VM, or existing custom images and manage AVD image host pools, versioning, backup, and disaster recovery.
  5. Monitoring and Support: Take advantage of our proactive incident and problem management. Your AVD environment is backed by our 24 x 7 x 365 customer support team of engineers who are certified Azure Experts.

Azure Hybrid Benefit

As you consider migrating to Azure to support your organization’s remote workers through AVD, you may also want to take advantage of Azure Hybrid Benefit to offset costs if you qualify. If you have existing on-premises Windows Server or SQL Server licenses with active Software Assurance or Linux licenses, you can bring those licenses to Azure and create a more cost-effective way to maintain a flexible hybrid environment. By reusing your existing licenses with Azure Hybrid Benefit, you’re only paying for the additional infrastructure, whereas, with cloud services from other providers you would be required to pay for both the infrastructure and the server licenses. 

How Can You Qualify for Azure Hybrid Benefit through Connection? 

  • Achieve Cost Savings by applying your existing Windows Server, SQL Server licenses, and Linux subscriptions to Azure Hybrid Benefit. Customers can realize up to 76% in savings with Azure Hybrid Benefit for Linux.1
  • Modernize and Manage a Flexible Hybrid Environment by utilizing Azure services with your on-premises infrastructure. Connection can help you modernize and manage your infrastructure and test cloud specific services with Azure solutions.
  • Leverage adjacent Azure services and benefits with Azure Hybrid Benefit. Offers and updates are available to maximize cost savings and optimize your business applications.

Your Account Team at Connection can help you navigate your Azure needs, from migrations to benefits and the optimization of your environment.

1The 76% savings is based on one standard D2s v3 Azure VM with RHEL or SLES subscription in the East U.S. region running at a pay-as-you-go rate vs a reduced rate for a 3-year Reserved Instance. Based on Azure pricing as of October 2022. Prices subject to change. Actual savings may vary based on location, instance type, or usage.

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Connection Cares in Action: Celebrating... https://community.connection.com/connection-cares-in-action-celebrating-achievements-in-corporate-social-responsibility/ Sep 05, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/2306538-Connection-Cares-BLOG.jpg

At Connection, we believe that caring for our community is at the heart of everything we do. Our Connection Cares initiatives turn our commitment into action through impactful employee resource groups, dedicated specialty groups, programs, events and more. Let’s take a closer look at some of the incredible things each group has accomplished so far this year.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Fostering Unity

Employees took strides toward fostering a more inclusive workplace by launching two new Employee Resource Groups including the Rainbow Alliance to support our LGBTQ+ community and its allies and establishing an Empowered ERG for the advancement of women in all aspects of their lives and professional journeys. 

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion took center stage during Pride Month. The DEI group in collaboration with the Rainbow Alliance ERG invited our employees to show their pride by decorating their workspaces in vibrant Pride gear or sharing videos about what Pride means to them. The colorful transformation served as a powerful, visual celebration of unity, filling our workspaces with positivity and acceptance.

The Rainbow Alliance ERG also shared information on our internal social media network about members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have made contributions to tech and science, such as astronaut Sally Ride and computer science pioneer Alan Turing. They also collaborated with the Charitable Contributions Group to make a donation to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that actively supports efforts to raise awareness and combat suicide among LGBTQIA+ youth, reinforcing our commitment to creating a safer, more welcoming environment for everyone.

Charitable Contributions: Making a Meaningful Impact

Our Charitable Contributions group worked to ensure every Connection employee had a chance to support causes that they find meaningful. By facilitating charitable donations and volunteering opportunities, we empowered our team to make a real difference in their communities. We also created a program that allows employees to suggest organizations for our group to support—to help us spread our contributions far and wide throughout our communities.

In the chill of winter, we focused our charitable contribution efforts on bringing warmth. At our annual Lenovo Winter Wonderland event, we hosted a coat drive to collect a total of 115 jackets. These jackets were cleaned and distributed to charitable organizations in the Burlington, VT area, ensuring that those in need were provided with essential warmth during the cold season.

At our annual kickoff event, we invited contributions to both the New Hampshire Food Bank and J.C. Mitchell Elementary, a school in South Florida nearby our West Palm Beach kickoff festivities. The combined effort resulted in an impressive 184 lbs. of donations for the food bank and 199 books—donated both in-person and through Scholastic Books online—for the school. We’re proud to contribute to the health and wellbeing of both communities!

As Connection is committed to supporting the education community, we also participated in a give-back program during the industry’s largest educational technology trade show. The program focused on providing personal hygiene items for students, empowering teachers to address the needs of students who face challenging circumstances. The initiative was met with enthusiasm and appreciation from educators and administrators nationwide. Teachers who visited our booth expressed deep gratitude for our commitment to addressing the practical needs of students, allowing them to focus on their education without worrying about essential hygiene products. Many educators shared their own experiences of witnessing the positive impact of such initiatives in their schools.

Sustainability: Nurturing a Greener Future

In April, our Sustainability group organized an initiative in honor of Earth Day. It was a call to action, not just for a single day, but for a future where our collective efforts make a lasting impact on the world we share. Leading up to Earth Day, our Sustainability group embarked on a mission to inspire and engage all employees to take meaningful steps toward environmental conservation. Each member of the Connection family was encouraged to embrace their role as caretakers of the Earth, championing sustainability in their daily lives. Employees were invited to capture their Earth Day actions through photos or videos, accompanied by descriptions of their eco-friendly activities.

Colleagues from all departments of our organization enthusiastically shared their efforts, and to make this initiative even more rewarding, all submissions were entered into a raffle to win gift cards to EarthHero, a platform that empowers individuals to shop sustainably for products that are gentle on our environment. This incentive not only celebrated Earth Day participants, but also amplified the message that sustainable choices can be both fulfilling and enjoyable.

Employee Recognition: Honoring Our Stars

In March 2023, our Employee Recognition group organized an unforgettable Employee Appreciation Day. With seamless collaboration and dedication, we shared the significance of this special day through messages from Connection Leadership and our internal channels. The highlight was a raffle, open to all Connection employees, symbolizing our heartfelt appreciation. While not an official holiday, Employee Appreciation Day resonates with our deep pride in cherishing and honoring the exceptional individuals that share our workplace. Those are just some of the great initiatives our teams have sponsored this year—and be sure to check in later to see what we get up to during the rest of the year!

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AI Roadmaps Are Critical to Retail https://community.connection.com/ai-roadmaps-are-critical-to-retail/ Aug 31, 2023 Brian Gallagher https://community.connection.com/author/brian-gallagher/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/2301651-Retail-AI-Roadmap-Blog.jpg

Building a retail organizational AI Roadmap must be a top priority going into 2024. The next 12–18 months will be the most important months in the history of your retail brand. This is when you must decide when, where, and how you will apply AI to enable your business for the future.  Customers are expecting to see AI solutions now, and while that may not be completely practical, waiting two years will not be acceptable. 

Over the past decade, we have watched as brand after brand has disappeared after refusing to embrace technology as a means to transform their business. As recently as 2019, only 50% of retailers had a mobile engagement platform for customers. Learn from these lessons or risk being the one left trying to save a brand.

As a retailer, you must embrace the acceleration of AI and decide how technology can elevate your brand value. Retailers will not have 15–20 years to decide the role of AI; retailers will have just three–five years to implement AI solutions. Now is the time to begin the work. The most important thing you can do over the next 12 months is to develop a complete AI roadmap to understand how every facet of your brand will be affected.

The steps to developing a roadmap appear simple, but do not let that fool you—this project requires a deep commitment throughout the entire organization. This roadmap will transform your entire business, from marketing to stores to supply chain, and they all must happen in unison.

Develop Your AI Roadmap in 4 Steps

  1. Document Desired Business Outcomes: Outline the organization’s strategic goals, brand value, and brand differentiators. Consider this a two- to five-year roadmap. Prioritize the strategic goals, values, and differentiators into a single list. 
  2. Identify Partner(s) to Explore AI Opportunities Aligned with Desired Outcomes: Align AI solutions to business use cases, keeping in mind your priorities and ROI. Do not focus on what you know exists today—make it a wish list. Re-align the priority list based on your discovery discussion.
  3. Assess the Current State of the Organization: What are the existing AI applications? What are your building blocks—data governance, networking, edge computing, security? Search for institutional knowledge and partnerships.
  4. Develop and Publish a Time-bound Roadmap: Assign technology and LOB champions to each goal of the roadmap. Understand that the map will change, but fight the urge to follow trends unless they align with your priorities.

It is important to embrace AI as a journey, not a destination. As your business evolves, allowing customers and employees to experience new solutions, so will your roadmap. The question should always be, “Do these solutions align with our strategic goals and priorities?” Nobody can say what the world of AI will look like in five years, but you can control how your brand will leverage AI. Connection would love to be your partner in developing your roadmap and identifying solutions aligned with your business goals. Engage our Retail Practice or contact your Account Team today to get started!  

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Connection’s Asset Discovery... https://community.connection.com/connections-asset-discovery-optimization-assessment-what-can-you-expect/ Aug 31, 2023 Lesley Thomas https://community.connection.com/author/leslie-thomas/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/2306471-ADO-Blog.jpg

The excitement that ensues as a Microsoft True-Up approaches is unparalleled—said no IT professional ever. It happens every year, yet it is sometimes dreaded as much as filling out your taxes. This is because, year after year, the mission is so similar. The sole purpose of your True-Up is to reconcile what has happened over the past year, make your best prediction of what will happen in the coming year, and do everything you can to avoid an audit.

For your organization, it might be a question of SQL licensing. Maybe you’re considering a move to Modern Work. Or perhaps you’ve completed a divestiture—or made an acquisition—and the records are a bit of a mess. Couple that with the complexities of Microsoft licensing rules and it can get overwhelming very easily. But what if I told you Connection offers an Asset Discovery and Optimization (ADO) Assessment aimed specifically at customers approaching their True-Up that offers full visibility into the assets deployed on your network? Interested? Of course, you are!

How It Works

We start the engagement by gaining full visibility into the assets deployed on your network. This includes servers, workstations, mobile devices, and the software used across their endpoints. Connection is partnered with Block64 to provide a low-impact, agentless discovery tool that is fast and easy to deploy. The entire configuration only takes 30 minutes.

Once deployed, your asset inventory is encrypted and securely transferred to a regionally located Tier 4 data center. It is then cleansed, categorized, matched, analyzed for advanced reporting—including installed software categorization, license assignment, hardware warranty matching, and end-of-support / end-of-life status—and cross-referenced with all known security vulnerabilities.*

You might need some of this, or even all of this, which is why the ADO engagement is broken down into three service levels:

Standard

  • Ensure your on-premises and hybrid cloud server environment is ready to meet evolving business demands. Get actionable insights into server capacity, utilization, and licensing to shrink your data center footprint, improve workload performance, and reduce costs.
  • Server Optimization Assessment: Connection will review your legacy Windows and SQL Server licensing for supportability, identify over- and under-utilized hardware, look for ways to reduce your server footprint, and look for savings opportunities using your Azure Hybrid Benefit and reserved instances.
  • Azure Virtual Desktop: An overview of existing virtual and physical client infrastructure that provides recommendations for optimization.
  • Modern Work; We can help you assess the unique requirements of your business and users to create a roadmap for workplace transformation that leverages the latest Office 365 productivity and collaboration technologies with a licensing solution that fits your budget.

Premium

  • Standard benefits plus Microsoft Software License Compliance
  • 90-Day license key for the use of Block 64 inventory tool
  • Normalization of all active licenses and subscriptions
  • Azure Hybrid Benefit licensing review
  • Consultant-led license compliance validation

Premium Plus
Premium benefits plus Effective License Position (ELP) to help you reconcile your license entitlements against the deployed estate.

At the end of the ADO engagement, your Connection Account Team delivers reporting and analytics to help you leverage what you have, orphan what you no longer need, and advise you on what you might find useful. This makes the Microsoft True-Up experience less like doing taxes and more of an eye-opening opportunity to propel your organization feet first into a year of innovation.

Ready to learn more? Reach out to your Connection Account Team today or watch our vlog

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbSiZ1D9wGc

*From: Block 64 Discovery and Analytics Platform

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Why Worry About Zero Trust? https://community.connection.com/why-worry-about-zero-trust/ Aug 29, 2023 Stephen Nardone https://community.connection.com/author/stephen-nardone/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/2289328-ZeroTrust-BLOG.jpg

By 2026, organizations prioritizing their security investments via a continuous threat exposure management program will suffer two-thirds fewer breaches.* Zero Trust is all about keeping threat and risk in check. As threats emerge, they give rise to potential risks, and if unaddressed, these risks can culminate in breaches or compromises. This progression is essentially inevitable.

The transition from a traditional brick-and-mortar organization to a remote work or hybrid environment has introduced significant threats and risks that have now become our new normal. Unfortunately, gaps in business continuity planning and the challenges associated with extending corporate cybersecurity protocols to untrusted networks have resulted in unchecked vulnerabilities.

Changing the way we do business, where employees connect from, what devices they use, how they access critical business systems, and how they behave in relation to social engineering all have significant impact on security risk management and the potential for compromise.

Various factors contribute to the evolving security landscape, such as changes in how we conduct business, the locations from which employees connect, the devices they utilize, their methods of accessing critical business systems, and even their susceptibility to social engineering tactics. All these aspects collectively wield substantial influence over security risk management and the potential for security breaches.

We find ourselves at a crucial juncture in the execution of cybersecurity programs. Organizations are now insisting on a comprehensive framework encompassing architecture, technology, processes, and policies that align with the principles of Zero Trust.

What Is Zero Trust?

Simply put, Zero Trust is a cybersecurity paradigm focused on resource protection and the premise that trust is never granted implicitly and must be continually evaluated. It establishes the policy that no identity, no system, and no process is allowed to connect to an organizational resource without passing the required policy checks for identification, authentication, and authorization.

The policy applies regardless of either the title or role of individuals, and regardless of physical or logical location (whether outside or inside of a perceived perimeter). Zero Trust is a marathon, not a sprint. It provides a set of guiding principles that can then be translated into architecture to meet an organization’s specific threat and risk needs.

How to Achieve Zero Trust

Organizations need to define and document what is required to understand and achieve a level of a Zero Trust Architecture and establish a timetable for implementation. Each step is essential to the process and must be accomplished for all business functional units (BFU) and organizations required to achieve a level of Zero Trust. Key stakeholders need to collaborate to establish a roadmap that includes evaluating existing technology, process, and policy to define a path forward including:

• Baseline the level of understanding of Zero Trust across all necessary BFUs
• Provide knowledge transfer to ensure all BFUs are at the same baseline
• Define the level of sponsorship and participation required by the BFUs to achieve Zero Trust objectives
• Identify and prioritize the business and security risks and their impact to achieve Zero Trust objectives
• Develop and present detailed findings to all BFUs and stakeholders

Organizations that invest in development of a Zero Trust Architecture will be better prepared to cost-effectively manage the never-ending cybersecurity threats that surface daily. Reach out to your Connection Account Team to learn more about Zero Trust Architecture and the solutions we provide.

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Empowering K-12 Education: Embracing the... https://community.connection.com/empowering-k-12-education-embracing-the-synergy-of-printing-and-technology/ Aug 28, 2023 Casey Teel https://community.connection.com/author/casey-teel/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/2295159-Cannon-PSG-Education-BLOG.jpg

In the ever-evolving world of K–12 education, technology continues to shape classrooms into centers of creativity and engagement. Amidst this digital transformation, we shouldn’t overlook the significance of printing in the learning process. At Connection, we firmly acknowledge the importance of equipping educators with the appropriate tools to inspire their students, a principle we proudly share through our partnership with Canon U.S.A.

Why Printing Matters in K–12 Schools

The role of printing in the education sector remains crucial for effectively meeting the needs of students and teachers. In K–12 schools, printing is instrumental in supporting vital areas like extracurricular activities, fundraising, admissions, HR services, and alumni and community relations activities. According to a survey of the education industry by InfoTrends[1], between 15% and 30% of printed materials consist of support materials, such as diplomas, certificates, report cards, and newsletters. Furthermore, teachers heavily rely on accessible printing to produce teaching materials, with 65% to 90% of print jobs dedicated to teaching and educational support.

According to Bay View Analytics, approximately 61% of educators and 55% of students prefer print over digital when it comes to educational materials[2]. This preference for print underscores the continued importance of printing technologies in fostering engaging and effective learning experiences within K–12 schools.

Paper vs. Screen

While digital learning materials are likely here to stay, they do not negate the importance of paper-based educational materials. According to Acta Pediactrica, research indicates that the duration of book reading in children correlates with enhanced brain connectivity, whereas prolonged exposure to screen-based media is associated with decreased connectivity[3]. Ensuring the availability of paper-based educational materials is necessary to foster an equitable environment for all students.

Balancing print and digital solutions requires a careful evaluation of the school's printing devices. Schools can consider investing in smaller, more cost-efficient large format printers for necessary print assets. Canon imagePROGRAF TC-20 series printers offer an ideal solution with their cost-effectiveness and compact design, while maintaining the ability to print in multiple formats with vivid detail.

5 Cost-saving Tips to Navigate Printing in K–12 Schools

Balancing costs while maximizing the benefits of both digital and printed materials is a challenging, but necessary task. Take into account these suggestions for reducing printing expenses:

  1. Conduct a Printing Audit: An audit will help identify the current printing habits, including the volume of printing, types of documents printed, and the associated costs. By analyzing this data, the school can gain valuable insights into areas where printing can be reduced, optimized, or made more cost-effective. Just be sure to survey all stakeholders, including administration, faculty, parents, and students.
  2. Educate the School Community: Raising awareness among students, teachers, and staff about the importance of responsible printing can significantly impact overall printing behavior. Educating the school community on the environmental and financial implications of excessive printing can encourage more mindful printing practices. Implementing guidelines on when to print, using double-sided printing, and minimizing unnecessary printing can all contribute to reducing printing costs.
  3. Optimize Printer Settings: Adjusting printer settings can lead to substantial savings in both paper and ink or toner costs. Setting default printer settings to duplex printing (double-sided) and selecting draft quality for internal documents can significantly reduce paper and ink usage without compromising readability. Regularly checking and calibrating printers for optimal performance can further enhance efficiency and reduce waste.
  4. Consider Bulk Purchases: Exploring opportunities for bulk purchases of printing supplies can lead to cost savings. Strategic planning for these purchases can ensure that the school maintains a sufficient stock of supplies while keeping costs in check.
  5. Invest in Low-Cost or Energy-Efficient Printers (or both!): Upgrading to low-cost or energy-efficient printers can be a wise investment in the long run. Such printers often consume less energy during operation and may use cost-effective ink or toner cartridges. Additionally, considering multifunction printers that combine printing, scanning, and copying functionalities can further streamline workflows and reduce the need for multiple devices. The Canon imagePROGRAF TC-20 printers offer a blend of cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency, making them a great choice for schools aiming to optimize their printing infrastructure.

Canon imagePROGRAF TC-20 Series Large Format Printers

  • Print up to 24" wide on roll paper, 11" x 17" and 8.5" x 11" cut sheets, and more
  • Seamless connectivity with Wi-Fi / USB / Ethernet 
  • Compatible with most Windows, Mac, and Chromebook devices
  • Compact size for easy placement saving valuable space in the classroom or office

Canon imagePROGRAF TC-20 M with Enhanced Capabilities

  • Multi-function: Print, scan, copy, and scan to print with wireless connectivity
  • Enlarge copy (no computer needed): Make enlargements directly from the TC-20M and showcase students’ work on an 11" x 17" sheet or create a large poster for the entire classroom to see
  • USB flash Drive: Access saved files directly from the TC-20M, simplifying the printing process

The Bottom Line

In the dynamic world of K–12 education, the role of printing remains crucial amidst technology's reshaping of classrooms. Printed materials have a significant impact on student engagement, retention, and creativity, complementing digital resources. Striking a balance between paper and screens optimizes the learning experience. The Canon imagePROGRAF TC-20 printers offer an innovative and economical solution, redefining creativity with versatile formats and seamless connectivity. Embrace the synergy of printing and technology to empower the future of education. Visit the Canon Showcase to explore printing solutions for your school today.


[1] Source: In Search of Business Opportunities: Finding the Right Prospects, InfoTrends 2017

[2] Source: Bay View Analytics, Coming Back Together - Educational Resources in U.S. K-12 Education, 2022

[3] Source: Brain connectivity in children is increased by the time they spend reading books and decreased by the length of exposure to screen-based media, Acta Paediatr, 107: 685-693

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Edge Computing Is the Way of the Future https://community.connection.com/edge-computing-is-the-way-of-the-future/ Aug 01, 2023 James Rust https://community.connection.com/author/james-rust/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2266704-Manufacturing-Edge-Computing-BLOG-1.jpg

It’s estimated that a modern plant with 2,000 pieces of equipment can generate 2,200 terabytes of data a month. Processing such a high volume of data at a data center is not only costly, but time consuming. A far superior method of processing all that information is to do so at the edge, and edge computing has become the practice of smart factories everywhere. 

Get the Most Out of IIoT Sensors

IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) sensors continuously track conditions such as vibration, humidity, heat, and location. Operations that heavily rely on these conditions in their process and have regulatory requirements, such as food and beverage manufacturing, can ensure products are made consistently and safely. In addition to environmental sensors, product location can be tracked in real-time, so forklifts and other forms of transport can function as efficiently as possible. Using these sensors in tandem with edge computing will enable manufacturers to make quick decisions in real-time. 

In my manufacturing days, one of the biggest challenges at each plant was keeping the machines up and running to meet production goals. Traditional preventative maintenance and newer predictive maintenance methods could help in this endeavor, but typically these efforts led to educated guesses. Factories equipped with IIoT sensors can monitor the condition of machines in real-time, and with edge computing this data can be processed to determine if and when the equipment is likely to fail. This results in better uptime, longer asset life, and optimized operating costs.

Take Full Advantage of AI with Edge Devices

With the widespread adoption of AI in real-world applications, processing data at the edge will become more necessary. One popular use case is the training of cameras to detect issues in quality and safety automatically. The data that the AI is looking at can be hours upon hours of camera footage from multiple devices and sending that amount of information to the data center would severely impact the costs and speed of the operation. By reviewing the data at the edge, manufacturers can efficiently take advantage of this new technology to ensure their factories run as smoothly as possible. This is all possible thanks to advances in computing, GPUs, and devices specially made to run in industrial environments.

A New Gateway: Edge Devices

In some cases, devices can’t connect to the IoT hub on their own, or it’s undesirable for security or architecture reasons. IoT edge devices are capable of connecting the IOT hub and other devices on the network, acting as a gateway. The edge device can then process incoming data and send only what’s needed further up the network, resulting in decreased bandwidth usage. Using an edge device this way also allows for traffic smoothing and isolation of downstream devices and can even store data in the event of an Internet outage, so it can send it forward when reconnected. This is a great way to reduce line stoppage due to a WAN failure.

Many of these newer edge devices also support 4G and 5G, allowing them to bypass the corporate network and connect directly to a cellular network. This creates a backup option in case of traditional network failure allowing devices to continue to communicate with cloud services and regional data centers. The result is a factory that is continuously connected and can run with total normalcy in a difficult situation.

Help Is Available for All Edge Computing Devices

As the factory of the future becomes the factory of the present, edge computing has proven to be a necessity for modern manufacturing. Picking the right devices for your unique operation can be challenging, but there’s no need to do so alone. Our Manufacturing Practice has reviewed countless use cases and can help you find the devices that are the best fit for your business. Engage our team today to get started. 

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The Microsoft Inspire Recap Is Here https://community.connection.com/the-microsoft-inspire-recap-is-here/ Jul 27, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2278421-Rush-Microsoft-Inspire-2023-Recap-BLOG.jpg

“We are in the midst of a massive platform shift with the new generation of AI.” - Satya Nadella, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft

Whew! Showcasing the power of AI, Microsoft Inspire 2023 brought forth an array of exciting announcements and groundbreaking innovations leaving us feeling, well, inspired. With so much to cover, let’s dive right in!

1) Microsoft Copilot Pricing Announced

In case you missed it, Microsoft 365 Copilot is an AI Large Language Model (LLM) tool that can help you write, recap, and create content from within the Microsoft Office applications. Sort of like an ingrained ChatGPT inside of each Office app. Although we didn’t get an official release date, we now know that Copilot will be $30 per month, per user for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium customers when it does become generally available.

2) Microsoft Sales Copilot

Sales Copilot brings new capabilities to Microsoft Outlook, Teams, and Dynamics 365 Sales, helping sellers to increase productivity and personalize customer interaction. The following Sales Copilot capabilities are now available for preview:

  • AI-generated lead and opportunity summaries 
  • A customer meeting preparation summary view that includes auto-generated summaries of previous meetings, notes, highlights of issues and concerns
  • Tips and suggested answers during Teams meetings that are prompted by the customer’s mention of a competitor or brand
  • Customer email summary and follow-up, with contextual replies and actions based on Outlook emails and CRM data

3) Bing Chat Enterprise Announced

Bing Chat Enterprise is now available in preview and is included at no additional cost in Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium. In the future, it will be available as a stand-alone offering for $5 per user, per month. Created in part to address enterprise concerns about privacy, with Bing Chat Enterprise, user and business data are protected and will not leak outside of the organization. Your chat data is not saved, Microsoft does not have access to it, and it will not be used to train the models. You can access Bing Chat Enterprise using your work account wherever Bing Chat is supported —Bing.com/chat and the Microsoft Edge sidebar.

4) Azure Migrate and Modernize 

Formerly known as AMMP, the new Azure Migrate and Modernize offers an expanded set of features, as well as support for additional workloads like high-performance computing (HPC), Oracle, Linux, SAP, and mainframe migrations. Microsoft announced the company’s intention to make a “substantial investment to increase the scale and availability” of Azure Migrate and Modernize.

5) New AI Abilities Across Microsoft 365

  • Copilot Expansion in Teams
    The new expansions of Copilot in Teams boosts productivity in several key ways. Copilot in Teams chat can summarize chat threads, organize key discussion points, and help you get caught up on conversations you missed. Copilot in Teams Phone means you can make and receive calls from your Teams app and get real-time summarization and highlights. Copilot can also draft notes for you during the call and capture key points such as names, dates, numbers, and tasks.
  • Microsoft Viva 
    The latest update includes the launch of Viva Glint, which provides insights on employee engagement through surveys and connected actions, and Viva Pulse, which enables managers and project leads to get confidential feedback on the flow of work in real-time.
  • Windows 365 Frontline 
    An easy and affordable way to provide the power of Cloud PCs to frontline, shift, and part-time workers, Windows 365 Frontline allows manufacturing customers to securely access their personalized Windows experience on any device.
  • Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive Announced
    Both coming to public preview later this year, M365 Backup will provide a recovery of your OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange data, while keeping it all within the M365 security boundary. M365 Archive gives you a cold data storage tier that enables you to keep inactive or aging data within SharePoint.
  • AI-Powered Process Mining in Power Automate
    Providing AI-powered insights that permit customers to optimize existing processes and evaluate efficiencies with low-code automation, Power Automate Process Mining offers two industry-standard capabilities, task mining and process mining. This innovation breaks down various barriers that might make it difficult for an organization to identify inefficiencies in their workflows and where they could use improvement. Process Mining includes functionality such as the Process Mining desktop app with advanced analytics and Power BI customization.

With so many exciting updates and opportunities, please reach out to your Connection Account Team for more information or with any questions. Read more about the Microsoft Inspire 2023 announcements on the official Microsoft blog.

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TechSperience Episode 119: Retail Store... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-119-retail-store-modernization/ Jul 25, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/TechSperience-Ep-119.jpeg

Success in retail has become centered on the customer experience. Take the friction out of purchasing with VMware while using an infrastructure that’s already in place. Check out this TechSperience podcast to hear from the retail experts at VMware and Connection on how to connect employees with consumers and transform your locations into faster and more efficient stores.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Brian Gallagher, Retail Strategy Director at Connection

Ed Durbin, Senior Director, Global Retail at VMWare

Show Notes:

[0:22] What are the top ideas that retail leaders are discussing surrounding retail store modernization? The news is getting inundated with AI, so LoB leaders are wondering how to implement AI initiatives to change the way their business operates. IT leaders are wondering how they can make it actually happen. There are so many new devices and technologies and solutions, and there is a sense that there is a race to see who can make it happen quickest. How IT can actually make it happen is a big struggle today.

[1:45] Are LoB leaders more "foot on the gas" and IT leaders more "pumping of the break" when establishing store modernization initiatives? Yes, IT leaders have learned over the past 15 years with the influx of mobile devices, networks, and omnichannel shopping experiences – what it's like if you don't lay a solid infrastructure foundation and roadmap to how you're going to get somewhere. So they've learned those lessons and trying to avoid any similar challenges in the future. They also tend to speak a different language than LoB leaders. So at Connection, we try to get the two groups more comfortable with talking with one another.

[4:15] Are those focusing on the backend infrastructure early enough, or only after they've purchased new technologies? It's a little of both. A lot of CIOs have said not to walk in the door with a shiny new toy without the infrastructure to back it up. Other CIOs say there is so much overlap happening in their store right now because they needed that shiny new toy. But in order to buy it, they needed to buy their endpoints, etc. They want to be able to lighten the load, leverage new technologies, and do more with less. They want to get rid of the overlap and get prepared to handle any new incoming technologies.

[5:45] Do CIOs want their systems to be able to adopt any new technology? Over 99% of global retailers are already VMWare customers. Since they are already leveraging a lot of what VMWare offers, provide the foundation so that they can be transformational.

[8:10] After a successful pilot, how do you execute that to scale? It can be a challenge after a successful pilot to expand across 3,000 more stores because it gets costly. This is why partners can be so valuable. A roadmap can first get across the outcomes you are looking to accomplish, the foundation you need to get there, and then how you'll apply the new technology to achieve the outcomes you desire. Many partners focus on POC rather than rollout.

[11:00] Are there one or two common hurdles that always stop POCs from moving to the rollout stage, and what can be done to overcome them? Deployment, deployment, deployment. Even though one pilot may be successful, it can be difficult to gain buy-in from the CFO, etc. because of the cost and how they can afford it. ROI is becoming harder to calculate when it comes to employee satisfaction and reducing turnover. Retailers trying to deal with so many different operating systems is creating challenges for IT departments.

[16:30] What are some initial steps people can be taking to modernize stores? Power and compute at the edge will hopefully be plug and play soon. With so many brand locations, they are not all getting stable network connection. As we put more devices and applications in these store locations, we've got to quit relying on the network. Laying the foundation for edge right now will be critical for the future.

[22:00] What should retailers be focused on now? Reduction of operational costs and reducing redundancy in stores. Also, leveraging hyper-personalized marketing and digital signage, and other customer-facing technologies. We recommend sitting down and building out a roadmap with a partner to make sure you've got the right foundation in place.

To continue the conversation, visit www.connection.com/retail or connection.com/vmware for more information.

You can hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or Podbean

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Inside Look: Connection Sales Department https://community.connection.com/inside-look-connection-sales-department/ Jul 20, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/1773728-InsideLook-Sales-BLOG.jpg

Interested in becoming a Connection employee? You’ve come to the right place. Follow our “Inside Look” series to learn what’s it like to work at different departments in our organization. You will learn about current open positions and hear from our department leaders what they look for in candidates during the interview process. This month, we would like to feature our Sales department.

What’s it like to work in Connection’s Sales department?

We offer a fast-paced environment for someone who is looking to reach their full potential. There’s also plenty of support available in the department—and the company—to help you succeed at providing your customers the best solutions. This environment really allows you to create relationships with customers that can last the span of your career at Connection.

What is the structure of the department?

First of all, we have three Sales organizations, Business Solutions, Public Sector Solutions, and Enterprise Solutions. Business Solutions works small- to medium-sized businesses, Public Sector services government and education, and our Enterprise Solutions team works with large businesses. In all three of our organizations, the Sales department is a full open-door policy. From the President of Sales to a new hire, we’re all in it together to support our customers. If you have a problem that needs to be fixed everyone will get in the weeds to help.

What are the relationships between Sales and other areas of the company?

We have great relationships with other departments. Connection is a true family mentality, with everyone working together to help our customers. There is a level of comfort and support that comes with each department, whether it’s Marketing, Product Management, IT, Finance, or Facilities.

Sales is hiring. What kinds of personalities mesh best within the company?

There is no perfect makeup to being a successful Account Manager. We’re looking for people who are motivated and driven to support a customer in any situation, with a willingness to collaborate with other peers to find the right solution. We’ve had so many people come from different paths—from construction, photography, retail, etc.—who’ve grown to be top tier Account Managers.

What are the most important qualities someone needs to succeed in your department?

We look for people who are self-motivated and driven. The technology knowledge can always be learned. We want you to want to succeed and grow.

What does it take to be successful in your department and at Connection?

Knowing who to turn to for answers to customer questions is a huge part of being successful in Sales. We’re effective most when we collaborate with others to make sure our solution to a customer’s problem is ironclad. And it takes a great quarterback in an Account Manager to lead the process, but also a great team around them to help finish the job.

If someone reading this was coming to interview tomorrow for a role in Sales, what interview tips would you give them? 

Be authentic. We want the person you are in the interview to be the person who shows up in the position. Do research on our organization and the role itself so you can have a constructive conversation about the opportunity. Be curious and inquisitive—be sure to ask questions of your own. It also helps to project confidence; it’s important that our customers can put their faith in our people. 

What can new hires expect from joining the Sales department?

They can expect a ton of training and a ton of support. Your tenure starts with a well-designed training and enablement curriculum that provides a sound foundation of knowledge to build from. Your sales leadership will support you along the way with coaching sessions for individualized development of your sales skills and business development in an effort to help you succeed. You’ll be part of a team where everyone will be rooting for your success.

Why Connection?

The amount of help and support you receive is unlike any other sales company. We are invested in our people’s success. Also, there is so much earning and growth potential here! 

We offer the opportunity to help others and grow to reach your full potential in the world of technology. Plus, we promise you’ll never be bored, because every day, there’s a new situation or challenge to solve. You get to run your own book of business on a collaborative team, and your decisions can help your customers grow exponentially.

If the insights you have gained about our exceptional sales department have ignited your interest and sparked a desire to be part of our team, we invite you to explore all our current open positions. Discover the perfect opportunity that aligns with your skills and aspirations. Take the next step and explore our open positions today.

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Interconnectedness and Edge Computing for a... https://community.connection.com/interconnectedness-and-edge-computing-for-a-successful-industry-4-0-journey/ Jul 18, 2023 Fausto Dedeschi https://community.connection.com/author/fausto-dedeschi/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2232878-LenovoNVIDIA-MFG-BLOG.png

Manufacturing organizations around the world are looking to implement Industrial Digitalization and unlock the benefits of interconnectedness and edge computing, enhancing collaboration, data utilization, and supply chain optimization between workstreams, systems, and stakeholders. Interconnectedness and edge computing also go hand in hand with Industry Digitalization—especially when implementing solutions from Lenovo and NVIDIA. This blog explores the key aspects of interconnectedness and edge computing and the value created when implementing Industry Digitalization solutions from Lenovo and NVIDIA.

Interconnectedness

Enhanced Collaboration and Agility

Interconnectedness between design and production promotes collaboration and agility in the manufacturing process—which are fundamental in Industrial Digitalization to adapt to dynamic customer preferences and rapidly evolving technology.

Real-time Data Exchange and Decision Making

By connecting design specifications, product simulations, and production plans, manufacturers can make informed decisions based on real-time data to help them optimize production processes, reduce errors, and improve overall quality and efficiency.

Faster Time-to-market

The ability to respond rapidly to market trends enables manufacturers to gain a competitive advantage. With Industrial Digitalization solutions, iterations and modifications can be implemented swiftly when design changes are seamlessly communicated to production teams, reducing the time required to translate design concepts into tangible products that can be taken to market.

Continuous Improvement and Optimization

Industrial Digitalization emphasizes continuous improvement and optimization. Interconnectedness facilitates the feedback loop between design and production workstreams.

Predictive Maintenance and Quality Control

By monitoring equipment performance and collecting real-time data, manufacturers can implement predictive maintenance practices, detect anomalies, and address quality issues proactively. This ensures higher product quality, reduces downtime, and improves overall equipment effectiveness.

Digital Twin Implementation
Interconnectedness is vital for implementing digital twin technology. Lenovo and NVIDIA offer digital twin solutions that empower organizations with the ability to create virtual replicas of physical assets or processes, enabling simulation, monitoring, and optimization. Interconnectedness between design and production workstreams facilitates the creation and synchronization of digital twins, allowing manufacturers to optimize production parameters, test scenarios, and identify potential bottlenecks before implementation.

Scalability and Flexibility

By integrating design and production workstreams, manufacturers can scale their operations seamlessly, adapt to changing production volumes, and implement flexible manufacturing systems. This allows manufacturers to respond to market fluctuations and customer demands more quickly and effectively.

Reduced Latency

Industrial Digitalization relies on real-time data processing and analysis to drive decision making and optimize operations. The edge brings computing resources closer to the data source, reducing the latency associated with sending data to a centralized cloud or data center for processing. By processing data locally at the edge, Lenovo and NVIDIA solutions can help organizations obtain insights faster, enabling timely actions and responses.

Enhanced Reliability

In Industrial Digitalization applications, reliability and uptime are critical. The edge provides a decentralized architecture resilient to network disruptions or failures. By distributing computing and data processing capabilities across edge devices, manufacturing operations can continue even if there are issues with connectivity to the cloud or data center. This ensures continuous operation and reduces the risk of downtime.

Bandwidth Optimization

Industrial Digitalization generates vast amounts of data from connected devices, sensors, and production systems. Transmitting all this data to a central location for processing can strain network bandwidth and increase costs. With edge computing, data can be processed and filtered locally at the edge, reducing the amount of data that needs to be transmitted to the cloud or data center. This optimizes network bandwidth and reduces associated costs.

Real-time Decision Making

Industrial Digitalization requires quick and informed decision making at various stages of the manufacturing process. The edge enables localized data analysis and decision making, allowing faster response times. Critical decisions can be made at the edge without waiting for data to be sent to a centralized location for processing. This facilitates real-time optimization of production processes, quality control, and predictive maintenance.

Privacy and Security

Industrial Digitalization involves the collection and analysis of sensitive data, including intellectual property, production data, and customer information. The edge provides an added layer of privacy and security by keeping sensitive data local and reducing the need to transmit it over external networks. This helps protect valuable data from potential breaches or unauthorized access.

Scalability and Flexibility

The edge offers scalability and flexibility in Industry Digitalization implementations. Edge computing infrastructure can be easily deployed and scaled across different manufacturing sites or production lines. This allows manufacturers to adapt to changing production needs, accommodate new devices or sensors, and scale computing resources as required.

Edge Analytics and AI

The edge enables localized data analytics and AI capabilities, allowing intelligent decision making at the edge devices. This is especially valuable in Industry Digitalization scenarios where immediate responses are needed, such as autonomous equipment adjustments or real-time anomaly detection. Manufacturers can achieve greater efficiency, predictive maintenance, and quality control by leveraging Lenovo and NVIDIA technology to implement edge analytics and AI.

Offline Capabilities

Network connectivity may be intermittent or unavailable in some manufacturing environments. The edge enables offline capabilities by processing data locally, ensuring uninterrupted operation even when connectivity is limited. This is particularly beneficial in remote or challenging environments where constant cloud or data center connectivity is not feasible.

Conclusion

Embracing interconnectedness helps manufacturing organizations unlock the benefits of Industrial Digitalization. By leveraging edge computing solutions from Lenovo and NVIDIA, manufacturers can optimize their operations, reduce latency, improve security, and make real-time data-driven decisions that increase efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness in the manufacturing landscape. Lenovo, NVIDIA, and Connection are partnered to help organizations accelerate their Industry Digitalization evolution. Engage Connection's Manufacturing Practice today to learn more.

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Windows Server 2012 Will Reach End of... https://community.connection.com/windows-server-2012-will-reach-end-of-support-in-october-whats-your-next-move/ Jul 18, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2257171-Windows-Server-2012-End-Of-Life-BLOG.jpg

Windows Server 2012 reached the end of mainstream support in October 2018. Microsoft offered extended support for five years, allowing customers time to migrate to newer Windows Server versions that were still under support—and now we are about to reach the end of that extended date. As of October 10, 2023, support will no longer be available for all editions of Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. This means these products will no longer receive security updates, bug fixes, technical support, or online technical content updates. Even though it’s still months away, it’s important you take the right steps now to prepare for this major change.  

So, what’s your next move? For starters, reach out to your Connection Account Team to begin looking at one of three options below. 

 
Migrate to Microsoft Azure and Receive Up to Three Years of Free Extended Security Updates 

Customers can migrate databases and applications to Azure and receive up to three years of free Extended Security Updates. Migrating your systems to the cloud unlocks multiple benefits: 

  • You never have to upgrade your systems again. Azure offers multiple additional resources to your environment, including security and data loss prevention.  
  • You don’t have to worry about End of Life or End of Support announcements forcing you to upgrade every few years. 
  • Connection’s Azure Migration Service provides seamless and straightforward support, making your migration as easy as possible.  

Remain On-premises by Upgrading to Windows Server 2022  

Windows Server 2022 provides the latest security, hybrid, and application modernization capabilities such as: 

  • Secured-core server providing advanced multi-layer protection against threats 
  • Built-in hybrid capabilities with Azure Arc and richer insights through Windows Admin Center 
  • Improve container application deployment with smaller image size for faster download and simplified authentication 

Purchase Extended Security Updates

Customers that can’t meet the deadline and have Software Assurance or subscription licenses under an enterprise agreement enrollment can purchase Extended Security Updates for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 that will last three more years. Learn more about eligibility. 

We’re Here to Help!  

Connection’s Asset Discovery Optimization (ADO) Assessment breaks down your organization’s Microsoft estate to help you optimize your IT management strategy. Our ADO Assessment Offerings include: 

  • Software Asset Management to help you better understand your Microsoft licensing and if the way you have it deployed aligns. 
  • Cloud Optimization will provide a report with insights into your server to decrease your data footprint and cut costs. 
  • Azure Adoption Support aligns you with the best cloud options through cloud assessments and a server cloud workshop. 

Our ADO Specialists help you understand your options to determine the solution that works best for your organization, fully supporting you on your journey to the cloud. As an Azure Migration partner, we can help guide your eligibility for potential funding toward your migration. Contact us for assistance with migrations, solutions, or with any questions you have about this Microsoft update!

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Employees Want Mac, but IT Only Supports... https://community.connection.com/employees-want-mac-but-it-only-supports-windows-now-what/ Jul 17, 2023 Paul Mounkes https://community.connection.com/author/paul-mounkes/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2251148-VMware-Blog-BLOG.jpg

Mac is more popular in business now than ever before. While sales of PCs continue to grow at a single-digit pace yearly (all sales globally, notwithstanding the pandemic years), Mac sales took a major jump shortly after the introduction of Apple silicon—their M1 chip. And incredibly, based on surveys conducted in 2021, Mac enjoys a 23% share in the U.S. enterprise market. That’s a seismic level of share growth in just two years from 17% in 2019.1 This level of popularity in business was unthinkable just 10 years ago when IT departments still had a myriad of objections to the macOS platform.

Why Is This Happening?

  1. The performance of Apple’s new M1 and M2 chips—in terms of processing speed and battery life—has been a driving factor. 
  2. With full control over the production of their own processors, Apple was able to launch a MacBook Air that sells for just over $1,000—a price point previously unheard of in the Mac world and one that’s quite palatable for most IT departments. 
  3. The employee experience has become increasingly strategic in nature due to its direct impact on recruiting and retaining talent. Device choice is a big plus in the employee experience ledger.

Is Your Organization Behind the Curve?

Most companies have Mac devices floating around. They’re considered critical for certain roles—like graphic design and development. But a healthy percentage of organizations still have not embraced Mac as a legitimate alternative for general knowledge workers.

If your company falls into that category (let’s call it the “Mac-less” category) and you’re reading this article, you’re probably at least considering a change that will have a substantially positive impact on your organization’s employee experience. If you’re looking for some tips on how to make the transition as painless as possible, you’ve come to the right place. 

If you’re Mac-less, you’re probably not managing the few Mac devices your organization already has with device management software. This may or may not be a problem, depending on whether you’re currently using a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution to manage your other (non-Mac) devices.

UEM is a device management system that’s capable of managing almost any platform and device type for any use case. If you have a UEM right now that does a good job of managing macOS, your shift to the “Mac as a choice” paradigm is going to be a matter of organizational change management for the most part. Depending on the skills your existing admins possess, you may need to do some hiring to get macOS expertise in-house—and get those people some training on how to operate your UEM’s macOS functionality. If your UEM solution vendor is a good one, they’ll have free online or fee-based live training—as well as professional services—all of which can help get your team up to speed. All things considered; this is going to be the most painless of all the possible situations the Mac-less might find themselves in.

If you’re using a UEM solution that does a poor job of managing Mac, or if your current device management system doesn’t manage macOS at all, the rest of this blog is for you. With many years of experience working with companies that have made this transition, we can make some suggestions—and tell you WHY we’re making them. 

One theme you’ll notice throughout this article is FLEXIBILITY. You need flexible tools to help future proof your org. With flexible tools, IT will be ready to handle new needs, requirements, or regulations as they present themselves. 

Multiple Device Management Tools? Not Ideal.

You’ll need device management software to manage all the platforms your employees use at any kind of scale. Most organizations that have embraced Mac (let’s call this the “Mac-Co” category) have at least four or five different operating systems to manage. This includes at least two desktop operating systems—possibly three if they have a significant number of Linux machines—and two mobile operating systems. Companies that utilize rugged devices and wearables for frontline workers may have up to nine different operating systems they need to manage.

This may seem like a daunting task, and a situation that can only be addressed using a handful of disparate device management systems. But in most cases, it’s best to consolidate as many of these platforms as possible using a single and effective device management solution. Notice the use of the word “effective.” Not all UEMs can manage all OSs effectively, so it’s a good idea to run proof-of-concept tests (POCs) to find out if these tools have the functionality you need. And you’ll want a UEM that supports devices whether they’re “bring your own device” (BYOD), corporate owned, or corporate owned/personally enabled (COPE). Even if you don’t enable all those use cases today, someday you might. This kind of flexibility, even if it seems like something you don’t currently need, helps you future proof your technology.

But why the need to consolidate, you ask? Why not field five different device management systems, or have one for each different OS?

A Team of Specialists? Not Ideal.

Let’s start with the training required to effectively operate multiple systems. While disparate device management solutions are used to accomplish by and large the same things, the way they operate can be quite different. Vendors and/or resellers will make various solution-specific training programs available when you sign up for them. As a result, you’d wind up with a team full of specialists: people who are solid on one system but not much good on any of the others. If one of them is sick for a day, things could get ugly. Or, far worse, if one of them leaves…well, you can clearly see that this is not the most effective form of team composition.

But if all your admins are using the same device management solution, then it’s much easier to have a team of generalists, each of whom can effectively work on any type of operating system.

Too Many Integrations

Here’s where flexibility becomes key. Let’s consider what happens when you want to expand your stack with solutions beyond device management. Example: Your company is growing, and you want to implement an advanced analytics tool that can create in-depth reports and dashboards that will make your job easier and make your team more proactive. A tool like that needs a great deal of data from your device management software. If you have four different device management systems, that’s four different integrations you’ll pay for and maintain. Because every time any one of your systems is updated, there’s a risk one or more of your integrations will need to be massaged—especially if any of them have been customized in any way. 

Now consider that there are tools you’ll want to look at beyond analytics. What about remote support solutions? Automation? Advanced mobile protection? Digital employee experience management? We’ll discuss the value of these things later in this article, but if you’re using multiple device management systems, every time you upgrade your IT management capability, you also upgrade your complexity at an exponential rate, making for a brittle bundle of technology.

Other Factors

There are many other factors to consider as well. It’s easier to create a true partner relationship—to get to know multiple people in the organization who can help you, and to have your voice heard—when you’re managing more devices with a single vendor. You can probably think of several more benefits as well, like having to go through the renewal process with just one vendor, and so on.

Automate.

As good as modern device management can be, the best solutions will allow you to automate the most tedious tasks with macOS and other platforms. Think about what your team of admins does every day. Which tasks take up the most time? In an advanced device management solution, an effective automation engine should be built in—and should be able to do a MYRIAD of things, including:

  • Automate your updates
  • Automate complex or group app deployments
  • Automate desired state management based on specified criteria or sensor values

These are just a few examples of the many things you should be able to do with your solution. But automation is not necessarily a panacea, because automation tools can be difficult to use. In many cases there are so many scripts involved, you almost have to be a programmer. So be careful when selecting a tool—you don’t want to force your team members to write pages of script in order to get any automation—at all—out of your tool. That’s a good way to ensure the tool is never used.

Of course, the engine must include the ability to import scripts. This allows experienced admins to develop the most highly advanced automated workflows. But it should also be equipped with a GUI that just about any admin can use to build out relatively complex automated workflows. A UI that allows users to drag and drop building blocks—like applications, sensors, and canned scripts—and add them to a canvas is a great way to get your entire staff involved in automation.

Look for Expansion Beyond Device Management.

As organizations grow, they invariably require IT solutions beyond device management. It would make great sense to purchase those solutions from your device management vendor if the vendor can provide these peripheral tools as well. But the fact is that most vendors tend to be very limited in the additional tools they offer beyond device management. Which is unfortunate because a device management vendor is the one software company able to create the tightest, most bulletproof possible integration between its device management software and its peripheral tools. 

Other than ensuring the most reliable integrations, there are two other reasons to go with a company that offers its own IT solutions beyond device management. 

  • First, that company knows its own device management system better than any third party ever will. It knows every single field of data that’s available. it knows how its customers use that data. It has studied what its customers want out of that data. Therefore, it knows best how to build an analytics tool, an employee experience management tool, or a remote support tool on top of that specific device management solution.
  • Secondly, and just as importantly, the device management vendor can tie all these systems together so they work hand in hand to make each other better. For instance, the employee experience solution can not only pull data from device management, but also from the advanced analytics tool—if you happen to have that as well. This type of cross-pollination just isn’t possible if you’re forced to rely on third parties to build out your full suite. And that means you just can’t get the same richness and depth of functionality out of third-party tools.

Closing

Managing macOS devices with the same device management platform you use to manage your other devices lets you streamline and simplify your management processes and software licenses. The flexibility of a true UEM with low/no-code orchestration furthers your team’s capabilities and potential. For more information on the topics we’ve addressed here, please see the links below. 

Resources

A guide to building an effective employee experience strategy – TechTarget

Resources from VMware

• Learn more about VMware Workspace ONE for macOS management

• Download the e-book to learn even more about Workspace ONE for macOS management

• Learn more about Freestyle Orchestrator, the built-in low-code/no-code automation engine in Workspace ONE

• Learn about VMware Digital Employee Experience Management, a solution that can help IT move from reactive to proactive

Source:
1 Secure Mac, 2023, The growth of Mac in the enterprise

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How to Leverage a Staffing Partner to... https://community.connection.com/how-to-leverage-a-staffing-partner-to-navigate-your-it-hiring-needs-during-an-economic-slowdown/ Jul 11, 2023 Patrick Dja Konan https://community.connection.com/author/patrick-dja-konan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2248660-IT-Staffing-Blog.jpg

Our economy has seen significant challenges over the past several months. This is forcing many companies across the country to make challenging business decisions that often include company reorganization and reduction.

Although technology has always been a way for companies to scale their business, it has become more of a necessity for organizations across the world to effectively operate in the aftermath of the pandemic in 2020 and the rapid growth of automatization, digitalization, and virtualization.

One way to navigate through uncertainty is to leverage a staffing partner to help bring in IT talent for critical projects. The right staffing partner will strategically work with you and your company to help build the right IT workforce as business demands change. This partnership can be truly beneficial to your organization, especially during uncertain times, as it gives you the flexibility to hire the right skillsets for critical needs without the burden of a long-term commitment.

Here are some of the benefits of working with the right IT staffing company:

  • Minimize Risk: Working with a staffing company can help you hire qualified candidates, which decreases the risk of poor hires, and offers the benefit of converting a consultant to a full-time hire through a contract-to-hire scenario.
  • Flexibility: Ability to hire the right skillsets for specific projects and tasks on a short- or long-term, temporary basis. Typically, you can end the engagement anytime within a 24-hour notice if the business climate changes.
  • Cost-effective and Time-efficient: Save time and effort in the hiring process, but more importantly—help save your organization money on costs associated with hiring, onboarding, benefits, payroll, and administrative responsibilities.
  • National Network of Candidates: Access to a large network of proven IT talent that has been pre‑screened, interviewed, and evaluated along with an in‑depth background check allowing you to quickly fill a particular skill gap.  

Though some companies may rely heavily on staffing partners to help during hiring surges, many companies work with staffing companies as strategic hiring partners to help navigate during economic slowdowns. Connection offers various IT services to help organizations meet their IT requirements, including staff augmentation needs. Learn how our staffing programs can help your organization quickly hire qualified talent on either a temporary or full-time basis in a cost-effective manner—while also saving time and minimizing the risk of poor hires.

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The Apple Experience: Empowering... https://community.connection.com/the-apple-experience-empowering-productivity-and-choice/ Jun 28, 2023 Chris Roux https://community.connection.com/author/chris-roux/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2252422-Apple-Post-Event-BLOG.jpg

Apple believes in providing customers with products that not only inspire creativity but also enhance productivity. Mac, a cornerstone of Apple’s DNA, continues to revolutionize the way individuals and organizations work worldwide. With its exceptional features and user-friendly interface, Mac empowers users to challenge the status quo and shape the future of their businesses.

The story of Mac at work began with Apple’s iPhone, and their commitment to employee choice remains unwavering. They believe in giving employees the freedom to decide how they want to work. This fosters a sense of ownership and enhances overall productivity. It comes as no surprise that an increasing number of customers are choosing Mac for the first time.

In the modern workplace, technology plays a pivotal role in shaping our lives, work, and communication. Employees recognize the significance of aligning their work life with a device of their choosing. As a recent study by Jamf highlighted, nearly 9 out of 10 respondents would be willing to sacrifice a small portion of their salary for that choice.1 This demand for choice spans across various verticals, including enterprise, education, and the public sector.

Interestingly, this demand for choice is largely driven by the experiences of the new generation before they even enter the workforce. Another study by Jamf revealed that over half of U.S. college students entering the job market are already using Mac, bucking the trend of a Windows-centric workplace.2 These students perceive organizations that offer technology choice as more modern, with 70% of them indicating a higher likelihood of joining and staying with businesses that provide such freedom.2

Apps. Apps. Apps. Mac Does That.

Now, let's dive into the world of apps—the backbone of productivity. When discussing applications, compatibility is often a primary concern. Rest assured, Mac is equipped with a wide array of apps that cater to various work requirements and common tasks. From sending emails and messages to managing schedules and meetings, these pre-installed apps ensure a superior user experience. Additionally, many of these apps seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Exchange—and they coexist alongside Apple’s family of productivity apps.

Notably, employees can create engaging content without the need to purchase additional software. However, for those who rely on Microsoft 365—and its suite of applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Teams—these apps now run better than ever on Mac. Each app works with Microsoft Office apps on other devices, providing a consistent and efficient experience across the board.

With Mac having transitioned to Apple silicon, particularly the remarkable M2 chip, Apple has unlocked a new capability: running iOS applications natively on your Mac. If you're already using a business, education, or institutional app on your iOS devices, chances are high that you can also run it on your Mac. This integration opens a world of possibilities, allowing you to access a vast suite of applications you know and love—all on the Mac platform.

Seamless Employee Experience.  Mac Does That.

Most employees are already familiar with using iPhone and iPad, making the transition to Mac a breeze. Apple's continuity features further amplify this seamless experience, enabling employees to work effortlessly across all their devices.

Features like Handoff enable automatic transfer of tasks from one Apple device to another. Whether you start drafting an email on your iPhone and finish it on your Mac—or begin writing a report on your Mac and continue on your iPad during a meeting—Apple's ecosystem ensures your work follows. Additionally, features like Universal Clipboard enable easy copying and pasting of content between devices, streamlining your workflow.

Furthermore, Mac Auto Unlock conveniently unlocks your Mac when you're wearing an Apple Watch, saving valuable time. With AirDrop, sharing files between your Mac, iPhone, and iPad is as simple as a few clicks, eliminating the hassle of convoluted file transfers.

And let's not forget about Sidecar. It enables you to use your iPad as an additional display for your Mac, providing that extra screen real estate when you're away from your desk. It requires no additional software and seamlessly integrates into your workflow.

The Apple and Connection Partnership: Uniting Excellence for Almost 40 Years

For nearly four decades, Apple and Connection have had a strong and enduring partnership. Together, we have been at the forefront of innovation, empowering individuals and organizations to harness the power of technology. With global authorized service for all major IT equipment manufacturers, we make creating or upgrading your Apple ecosystem a seamless and painless experience.

At the heart of our partnership is a team of highly skilled Apple solution engineers. These experts are not only authorized by Apple to provide exceptional service but also possess a deep understanding of everything there is to know about Apple. If you need support, maintenance, or assistance in deploying and managing Apple devices, our team is equipped to meet your needs.

But our partnership with Apple goes beyond service and support. We offer a comprehensive range of Apple and Connection professional services that are designed to streamline your experience. One of our flagship offerings is Apple Business or Apple School Manager enrollment, allowing you to effortlessly manage your organization's devices and apps. This powerful tool provides centralized control and oversight, making device deployment and management a breeze.

Moreover, as an authorized partner, we have the expertise to work with Apple's Volume Purchase Program, enabling you to efficiently procure apps and content for your organization. Our advanced deployment capabilities ensure that your Apple devices are configured and ready to use straight out of the box. And when it comes to cellular activations, we have you covered, ensuring seamless connectivity for your mobile devices.

We understand the importance of comprehensive support for your Apple devices, which is why we offer AppleCare Plus and AppleCare for Enterprise. These extended warranty programs provide peace of mind, protecting your investment and ensuring prompt assistance in case of any hardware or software issues. For educational institutions, we offer AppleCare for Schools, tailored to meet the unique needs of the education sector.

With our extensive expertise and partnership with Apple, we are committed to simplifying the integration of Apple devices into your organization. We provide end-to-end solutions, combining cutting-edge technology with personalized support, so you can focus on what matters most—driving your business forward.

Experience the power of the Apple and Connection partnership. Let us guide you on your journey to a seamlessly integrated Apple ecosystem, where productivity, efficiency, and innovation thrive. Contact us today to unlock the full potential of your Apple devices and elevate your organization to new heights.

Sources:
1 Jamf, 20221, Employee Choice and its Impact on the Future of Work
2 Jamf, 2019, The Influence of Student Device Choice on the Modern Workplace

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Passing the Cape: Ensuring the Memory of an... https://community.connection.com/passing-the-cape-ensuring-the-memory-of-an-it-superhero-lives-on/ Jun 21, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2216271-ITSA-Cape-BLOG-1.jpg

Last year, Connection was proud to recognize Patrick McGee from St. Johns School District as the Best Team Leader and our Ultimate IT Superhero at our annual IT Superhero Awards. Among his prizes, we gifted him with an official IT Superhero cape. He had shared his plan to pass the cape along to spotlight his co-workers, and we loved it! What better way to recognize other IT superheroes?

Patrick then had to relay some bittersweet news: the Technology Support Specialist they’d chosen as the first recipient, Wayne Kizewski, passed away before they could honor him with the cape. “It was a hard time for our group, but to keep his spirit alive in our department, we named the award after him,” Patrick told us. Each month, the cape, along with a certificate of recognition, will travel to a new IT Superhero in the district and will be proudly displayed in the front office of their school.

“The Wayne Kizewski IT Superhero Award is in honor of Wayne to showcase just a few attributes of what an amazing person he was. Wayne was caring, personable, dedicated, funny and hard working. This award is to showcase our Technology Support Specialists who also share some of these attributes and go above and beyond to support our students and staff across the district.”

Thank you for sharing your group’s plan for honoring your colleague, Patrick, and we’re proud to play a little part in ensuring his memory lives on.

Do you know an IT Superhero? Nominate them for our 2023 IT Superhero Awards.

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Mac Makes Sense. And Cents. https://community.connection.com/mac-makes-sense-and-cents/ Jun 14, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2214794-Apple-Mac-Overview-BLOG.jpg

The Mac business today is stronger than ever. Mac continues to lead the industry in customer satisfaction—as it has for over a decade. And more customers than ever are choosing Mac for the first time. Over 50% of today’s buyers are brand new to the platform.

The story of Mac at work started with iPhone and its users bringing their own devices into their work environment. Employee choice and device choice are aligned to that same principal—the employee deciding how they want to work and how they know what makes them the most productive as a result.

Each of us recognizes the huge role that technology plays in the modern workplace. It influences how we live, how we work, and how we communicate. Jamf recently commissioned a study that showed an overwhelming number of respondents felt that aligning their work life to a device of their choosing was of great importance. So much so that almost 9 out of 10 respondents would give up part of their salary to get that choice. This is especially important as we look at the labor market today, and the war for talent that is occurring across an enterprise, in education, and the public sector.

Now, much of that demand for choice is being driven by the new generation’s experience prior to graduation. In fact, a study recently found that 66% of college students coming into the workforce are using a Mac—which is really kind of counter to the Windows-centric workplace.

We’ve known for many years—and a recent study also found—that students see organizations that offer technology choice to their team as more modern than other organizations. And up to 67% of those respondents would be more likely to join and stay with a business that offered that choice.

Back in 2021, Apple commissioned Forrester to conduct an independent study* of the impact of Mac and enterprise. The study found that customers saw reduced overall device costs, improvements in security, and improvements in overall employee experience when they deployed an updated M1-powered Mac device. At the time, those organizations were able to leverage that sort of additional power and performance at a much lower price point. That really helped them expand their Mac user base to new teams. And this was most important to us because we had a lot of companies say, “Well, we already have Mac. They’re for our creatives and our developers. What’s the financial benefit of offering it to more users?” 

Now, in case you haven’t seen this before, here’s the summary of the cost savings that Forrester found. The study found that—despite an average purchase cost of around $1,500 dollars for a well-equipped Mac compared to $1,200 dollars for a PC—Mac actually costs $843 dollars less than a PC on a per-device basis when we considered hardware, software, support, and operation costs over those three years.

And the good news is the experts at Apple and Connection can work with you to build your own analysis based on the study with the type of organization you are, the size and number of employees, and things like that to get kind of your own milestone that we can help you reach with best practices and managing Mac the right way.

The Next Steps

Need help streamlining Mac deployment? Connection makes creating or upgrading an Apple ecosystem easy. We are an Apple Corporate Reseller with a partnership that goes all the way back to 1984. This means we are uniquely qualified to provide Apple solutions, product availability, and expertise that exceed your expectations. Get started today!

*Forrester, 2021, The Total Economic Impact™ Of Mac In Enterprise: M1 Update

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Mac Makes IT Deployment Easy https://community.connection.com/mac-makes-it-deployment-easy/ Jun 13, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2214757-Apple-Mac-Deployment-BLOG.jpg

Over the last decade, many businesses have made their way to Mac. This really means a lot of the same workflows that you’re using for iOS are going to translate very well to Mac. So, if you’re currently doing zero-touch deployment on your iOS devices—or your iPad and Apple TV devices—it’s easy to integrate Mac into the same process.

To do this, there are three things that every organization is going to need. First, you need Apple Business Manager—or Apple School Manager for you public sector folks. Second, you need mobile device management. Third, an understanding of how to do endpoint security on the Mac. If you have these three things already—great! You can start deploying Mac tomorrow. Or maybe you’re already doing it today.

Apple Business Manager and Apple School Manager offer Web-based portals that allow IT admins to deploy Apple devices. And once you’ve enrolled devices that you purchase directly from Apple or Connection—or even your carrier—they will appear in this portal, allowing you to assign them to your MDM solution.

So, they get automatically set up. What’s cool about this is—if you have multiple device management solutions in your environment—you can do things like assign all your iOS devices to one and all your Mac devices to another. Now, sitting underneath all this is something called the Apple Push Notification Service.

99.999% of the time that zero-touch workflow doesn’t work is because somebody on the network team is specifically blocking or interfering with an Apple service. So, one of the tools that we have to help—and you get to determine if you have full access to the Apple services that you need—is a tool called the Mac Evaluation Utility. This is freely available from Apple.

Next up is device management. And I’m guessing a lot of you are probably using a solution today. Great. If it supports iOS, there’s a good chance you’re going to be able to manage your Mac devices on it as well. Something to keep in mind is that Apple provides a framework to all developers to create these solutions. The MDM solutions may differ in interface and market focus, but they all work from that same set of APIs.

So, when you’re looking at growing your Mac program, maybe you’re using a current solution and it is not quite working the way that you need it to. Or it might be requiring additional tools to provide sort of the full service that you need for management. Make sure the tool you’re selecting is using all these APIs and we recommend you kind of look at what your requirements are for management and evaluate your selection against them—versus “does this tool manage all of my devices?” If that makes sense. But again, if you’re already managing iOS, you can probably integrate Mas as a workflow as well.

Now, the last thing that we need is this concept of the Apple endpoint security framework. Now, if you haven’t heard of this, it’s probably good because it’s really designed to be invisible. But this debuted on Mac with macOS Catalina. And what it did is it created this user space replacement for all the low-level operating system monitoring that a lot of these antivirus or security solutions needed.

That was really only achieved by operating within the kernel space. Now, this is not a lesson on how UNIX works. In advanced environments security teams want to get more insight into what’s happening with process, execution, and mounting file systems like USB drives. What this means is the sort of concept of endpoint detection and response—as well as what some people are calling “agents” now—Mac ships with a lot of these security technologies, right out of the box.

So, I bring up all these concepts because it’s worth having a discussion with your information security teams to find out what they need to protect important data and really determine which of these solutions can be handled natively on Mac—without the need for another third party. Case in point: most people don’t even realize that Mac actually ships with antivirus and antimalware software called XProtect. It’s designed to be silent and not interfere with your experience. If you don’t know it’s there, there’s a reason for that.

The Next Steps

Need help streamlining Mac deployment? Connection makes creating or upgrading an Apple ecosystem easy. We are an Apple Corporate Reseller with a partnership that goes all the way back to 1984. This means we are uniquely qualified to provide Apple solutions, product availability, and expertise that exceed your expectations. Get started today!

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What Makes ChromeOS Different? https://community.connection.com/what-makes-chromeos-different/ Jun 13, 2023 Joshua Ramsey https://community.connection.com/author/joshua-ramsey/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2223178-ChromeOS-BLOG.jpg

Most of us are probably familiar with ChromeOS thanks to its establishment in the K–12 market during the early 2010s. In recent years, ChromeOS’s foray into the enterprise space has also started taking off.

One of the key differences between ChromeOS devices and other office computers—running Windows or macOS—is the way they handle software. Applications on a traditional device are stored locally on a hard drive. These applications can be resource intensive, requiring a significant amount of processing power and memory to run smoothly.

Google’s ChromeOS, on the other hand, is designed to work with Web-based applications that are accessed through the Chrome browser on Chromebooks, Chromebases, and Chromeboxes. These applications are hosted on remote servers, which means they don’t require a lot of processing power or memory to run. This makes ChromeOS devices more lightweight and portable than traditional office computers.

Storage Wars

Another key difference is the way ChromeOS handles data storage. ChromeOS devices typically have very little local storage, usually just enough for the operating system and a few basic applications. Instead, users are encouraged to store their data in the cloud—either through services like Google Drive or other cloud-based storage solutions.

This approach has several advantages. First, it means that users can access their data from any ChromeOS device with an Internet connection, making it easier to work on the go or collaborate with others. Second, it reduces the risk of data loss or corruption, as data is stored securely in the cloud and can be easily recovered in the event of a hardware failure.

Built-in, Automated Security

Finally, ChromeOS is designed to be more secure than the operating system found on traditional office computers. Because it is optimized for cloud-based computing, ChromeOS is less vulnerable to malware and other security threats that commonly attack PC and Mac devices. It’s worth taking note that ChromeOS has never experienced a reported ransomware attack to date. In addition, ChromeOS devices receive regular security updates from Google, ensuring that they remain protected against the latest threats.

In conclusion, ChromeOS is a lightweight, modern operating system that is designed to work primarily with Web-based applications. It is optimized for cloud-based computing and is designed to be more portable, secure, and easier to use than traditional office computers. While it may not be suitable for everyone, it is an excellent option for users who value mobility, security, and ease of use. 

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ChatGPT, AI, and Machine Learning—Oh My! https://community.connection.com/chatgpt-ai-and-machine-learning-oh-my/ Jun 08, 2023 Casey Lindsay https://community.connection.com/author/casey-lindsay/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2218109-ChatGPT-Blog-1.jpg

I often wonder to myself, at what point does AI, ChatGPT, Machine Learning—and frankly just trying to stay at the bleeding edge of the technological revolution—get to the point of diminishing returns? Don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT of good that is coming from things like AI and ChatGPT. But there are also things that keep me up at night—and we need to talk about that too. 

What Is ChatGPT?

First, let’s cover the basics on what exactly ChatGPT is. ChatGPT is an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI that was released in November 2022. Built on top of Open AI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 families of large language models, it has been fine-tuned using both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques. It has been getting a lot of much-needed attention because it is one of the most significant tech launches since the original Apple iPhone in 2007. ChatGPT stands for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer”. It is essentially a generative language processing tool driven by AI that allows you to have human-like conversations and interactions with a chatbot. It’s a tool that can answer questions and assist you with tasks like writing essays, composing emails, or even writing development code.

ChatGPT in Motion

Now that we’ve briefly covered what it is, let’s highlight some use cases where I believe ChatGPT carries some inherent benefits. In the classroom, I see ChatGPT reducing teacher workload and improving the student experience. ChatGPT is like having a research assistant at your fingertips. For example, as a teacher, you could prompt ChatGPT with the following: “Tell me 5 causes of the Great Depression. Also, summarize the important facts that an eighth grader should learn, including sources.” Think about how much of an increase in efficiency this teacher would have when it came to their lesson planning. You’d obviously always want to check the sources and validate this information, but, man, would this help streamline lesson prep for educators. 

What about from the students’ perspective? I fondly recall my college years, trudging to the library through rain and snow to write research papers—and maybe socialize a bit. I’d check out books, extensively research my topic, and make certain I was referencing all my sources. Those were the days of AOL and dial-up Internet—and there certainly wasn’t a chatBot you could interact with to help you write your paper. As much as I think it is valuable for kids of all ages to do the heavy lifting to earn their stripes, I also believe that it’s beneficial for them to learn and adopt these technologies and increase the efficiency of their time management while also enhancing their technology skillsets. When they hit the job market, it would be unfortunate to see opportunities pass them by because they were reluctant to learn the latest technologies. I liken ChatGPT to having a virtual tutor or study buddy to help students further contextualize concepts to gain a greater understanding in and outside of the classroom.

Now let’s change gears and have a closer look at the benefits of generative ChatGPT within healthcare and how it has the potential to revolutionize the entire healthcare industry. One obvious use case is virtual care symptom checking to help triage patients more efficiently and reduce the burden on healthcare providers. ChatGPT can even be trained to provide guidance on selfcare for minor conditions. For healthcare providers, ChatGPT can assist with administrative tasks like charting and documentation. This can help providers save time and improve the accuracy of patient records. ChatGPT also has the potential to transform the way medical research is conducted.

The Potential of Misuse

So, while I believe ChatGPT to be highly beneficial to us as a society, I think it’s just as important to talk about the scarier aspects of this application while it’s still in its infancy. First and foremost, I believe there always must be some measure of human intervention from a checks and balance standpoint. You can’t ask ChatGPT to write a medical chart for a patient without checking this detail for accuracy. Things could spiral out of control amazingly fast with inaccuracies in medical records. I also think an argument could be made that it promotes laziness, use the college research paper as a notable example. ChatGPT could literally provide you with all the details to write a college essay with very little labor on the student’s part. Is this considered cheating? Some might say it absolutely is. 

A Delicate Balance

Like all things in life, I think balance plays a key role in the use of ChatGPT. Balance between increasing efficiencies and accuracy—but not allowing the chatbot to completely take over. Balance in student life between actual learning and retention of a subject versus allowing ChatGPT to do all the work for you. Balance in healthcare from a time efficiency standpoint for the providers, but also ensuring that the generative responses are highly accurate within the medical records. I am intrigued by where we are evolving with technology and that is what has led me to author this blog. I hope some of these key points have inspired you to think about these ChatGPT use cases and perhaps areas in your life that saddling up with a chatbot by your side might bring value to you too.

Tune in to our vlog for an overview of ChatGPT, its use cases, and why human intervention will always be needed for AI technologies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkXRbrtzWa0
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Connection Announces the 2023 IT Superhero... https://community.connection.com/connection-announces-the-2023-it-superhero-awards/ May 31, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2213271-ITSA-2023-Blog.jpg

We are proud to announce that Connection will host the third annual IT Superhero Awards! The awards program recognizes IT professionals, nominated by their colleagues, for going above and beyond the call of duty to save the day for their team. We need your help to reward these IT Superheroes with an award and option to attend the Connection Technology Summit in Las Vegas, NV—winners will receive complimentary travel, hotel, and event admission. Submit your nomination today!

There are five award categories:

Best Team Leader (Leads to success, inspires others to greatness)

Best Rookie (A fresh IT pro who performs like a seasoned pro)

Best Catch (Made an amazing save, big or small, that averted disaster)

Best Superpower (Capable of performing astonishing feats, no matter the deadline)

Most Unshakeable (Always calm, patient, and focused in the face of IT chaos)

A grand-prize winner, chosen from the 5 category winners, will be named the Ultimate IT Superhero!

At the presentation of last year’s awards, Patrick McGee—who was named the 2022 Ultimate IT Superhero—said, “It’s an incredible honor to be nominated by my team for this award. I’m completely humbled. I think their response to the IT Superheroes Awards program speaks volumes about the culture of our team—always positive, supportive, and looking for ways to lift others up. They’re the true superheroes. Without their dedication and hard work, we wouldn’t get anything done!”

The IT Superhero Awards program is open to IT professionals from organizations of all sizes and industries, spanning startups to large enterprises across all vertical markets. Category winners will be announced at the first Connection Technology Summit in Orlando, FL on September 14, 2023 and the Ultimate IT Superhero will be announced at the second Summit in Las Vegas, NV on October 19, 2023. Read the full press release for complete details.

Nominations for the 2023 IT Superhero Awards are due August 18, 2023submit yours today!

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Cloud Computing in Healthcare Is Having Its... https://community.connection.com/cloud-computing-in-healthcare-is-having-its-day-in-the-sun/ May 25, 2023 Jennifer Johnson https://community.connection.com/author/jennifer-johnson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2206699-CloudComputingHC-BLOG.jpg

I distinctly remember the first time I participated in a cloud computing demonstration back in 2010. Since then, cloud computing has come a long way, particularly within the healthcare vertical. In fact, it was cloud-to-edge technology that dominated our conversations in the Connection booth during HIMSS23. As healthcare organizations both large and small grapple with anemic budgets and an exhausted and skeletal IT staff, cloud computing can serve as a welcome reprieve to many of their common concerns. Cloud computing is, if you’ll indulge the pun, having its “day in the sun.”

The Cloud Can Help to Ease Common Concerns in Healthcare

The HIPAA Journal reports that, in March 2023, there were 63 health data breaches, exposing more than 6.3M individual healthcare records, an increase of almost 47% from February 2023. The cost of these breaches is nearly incalculable, and remediation efforts are made more difficult when compounded by pervasive staffing challenges across clinical, administrative, and technology personnel.

Healthcare IT Today editor John Lynn remarked in his HIMSS23 recap, “Biggest Themes from #HIMSS23,” the common concerns among the hospital C-suite weren’t surprising. He noted there aren’t enough clinicians to serve the needs of patients. And the doctors and nurses in front-line patient care are burned out and increasingly skeptical that IT can be part of the solution. Connection believes introducing cloud solutions, where they make sense, could prove the latter untrue.

This Kind of Pressure Can Also Bring Creative Solutions

Healthcare organizations are in year three of their end-point device lifecycle for laptops and desktops that were deployed during the pandemic. With no dedicated funding to plan replacement, these organizations are taking their fleet of X86-64-bit devices and repurposing those devices as thin clients. This isn’t a new, or especially groundbreaking idea, but healthcare organizations are embracing this cloud-forward approach.

Economic, staffing, and security benefits notwithstanding, healthcare clients share that cloud computing has caught up to the unique use cases commonly found in clinical environments: shared workstations, tap-and-go/single-sign-on, virtual care, billing and coding, patient registration kiosks, call centers, remote/hybrid work, and digital signage.

One simple implementation can have staggering effects, saving both time and lives. “The IGEL OS is highly secure and customizable, allowing us to quickly deploy for a variety of use cases,” said Jim Baeszler, Chief Information Officer of New Jersey-based care provider, Chelsea Senior Living. Mr. Baeszler continued, “We made the switch to IGEL to extend the useful life of existing hardware which has been even more valuable in the current environment of supply chain issues and rising new equipment prices.”

Connection’s Cloud Circle of Excellence is your partner-agnostic source for all cloud-enabled solutions. Visit our Cloud Services webpage or contact your Connection Account Team to discuss cloud computing options for your healthcare organization further.

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Microsoft Surface Updates https://community.connection.com/microsoft-surface-updates/ May 23, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2193371-Blog-Microsoft-Surface-BLOG.jpg

Did you know that the Microsoft Surface is the first PC designed and distributed solely by Microsoft? The Surface was first announced at an event on June 18, 2012, and was the first major initiative by Microsoft to integrate its Windows operating system within its own hardware. The following years have brought continuous updates and new iterations of the Surface from the Pro to the Laptop and Hub to the Go—Surface is an ever-evolving device made to fit different types of users.

I remember receiving my Microsoft Surface 2 for work in 2015, and it was love at first sight. The sleek shiny screen and the red (!) detachable keyboard felt revolutionary for a work device. It was lightweight and perfect for my role as a Learning Consultant that often relied on New York City public transit to get to schools for Microsoft Education training sessions. Fast-forward several years and I have had Surface Pro 3s, a 4, and my current personal device is a Surface Pro 7. I am a tried-and-true loyal Surface fan at this point, so I jumped at the chance to sit down and talk with my colleague, Nico Adornetto, Partner Development Specialist, about the Surface team at Connection, Surface updates, customer offers, and upcoming partnerships.

As one of the largest partners represented at Connection, Microsoft Surface strives to bring the best hybrid solutions to light for technology customers across all segments. The Surface team at Connection is available to answer any general questions about devices, accessories, or warranty information. For all sales inquiries, deal registration, or quote development, individuals should reach out to our Business Development Specialist.

Surface Updates:

Let’s start with what everyone wants to hear! The updated Surfaces devices are slick, fast, and uniquely beautiful.

Surface Pro 9 is the ultimate device that provides tablet flexibility with laptop performance. Surface Pro 9 also has an extended battery life, high-speed 5G connectivity, an edge-to-edge 13-inch touchscreen, and built-in kickstand. With high quality audio and video capabilities, the Surface Pro 9 is ideal for hybrid workers, remote workers, and people on the go.

Surface Laptop 5 is a sleek and beautiful device with an extended battery life and a vibrant touchscreen powered by 12th Gen Intel® Core™ i5/i7 processors providing a remarkable laptop experience. With its lightning-fast Thunderbolt port—which connects to a 4K monitor, charges your laptop, and has the capacity for large data transfers—the Surface Laptop 5 is an ideal fit for a modern workplace.

Savings Opportunities:

Step 1: Fall in love with Surface devices by exploring the features, functionality, and accessibility options that differentiate these devices from its competitors.

Step 2: Find an opportunity to save money on Surface devices for your organization by connecting with our experts to understand your business needs.

Surface Signature Savings: Eligible customers can purchase select devices at up to 20% off—with no minimum or maximum purchase quantity. By investing in modern Microsoft devices, you’ve help ensure improved security and productivity for your employees. This offer is valid until June 30, 2023.

Surface + Savings: A limited time offer for qualified commercial customers to receive a rebate of up to $50 on select devices—or $120 on Hub—purchases when you bundle them with Microsoft 365, Azure, Dynamics 365, and Windows 365 products. This offer is good through June 30, 2023.

Surface Starter Kit: Eligible customers can purchase up to 50 devices at 20% off! Save on Surface Laptop 5, Surface Pro 9, Surface Laptop Go 2, and Surface Go 3 while empowering your employees and IT to become more agile, connected, productive, and secure. This offer is valid until June 30, 2023.

Upcoming Partnerships within Connection:

How is Connection working with other partners to create access for the remote and hybrid workforce?

Surface and Canon Partnership: Enables the ability to print canvases or posters on the go, providing print and scan solutions that hybrid workers can use no matter where they are. This partnership highlights extraordinary use cases for Connection’s print capabilities.

Surface and Logitech Partnership: Offers accessories and video capabilities that enhance the mobile experience through Microsoft Teams to provide extremely reliable video quality that remote and hybrid workers know they can rely on.

For more information about Surface opportunities, upcoming partnerships, or savings opportunities, please reach out to your Account Team. For more information on the Surface team, please check out the vlog on Connection’s YouTube channel.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK-m96w8QzY

 

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Ransomware Threatens Manufacturing Operations https://community.connection.com/ransomware-threatens-manufacturing-operations/ May 11, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2177221-Manufacturing-Blog-Ransomware-in-OT-BLOG.jpg

With manufacturing becoming the #1 most attacked industry for two years in a row, the threats are real—and something we all need to take seriously. The #1 result of cybersecurity incidents was extortion, accounting for 32% of all successful events within manufacturing. 

Regarding the types of cybersecurity events, ransomware makes up 23% of all incidents within manufacturing. More alarming is that 70% of all ransomware incidents in manufacturing impact the operational technology (OT) domain, not just traditional IT. This highlights just how critical the risk is and demonstrates how committed attackers are to exploiting manufacturers’ weaknesses not just in conventional IT, but a more concerning trend within operations or industrial environments.

So What? We Have a Firewall

There is a belief that if we implement a firewall between IT and OT, all our risks disappear. Today’s attacks are focused on disrupting operations—that means propagating east and west—infecting every vulnerable or connected OT/IoT/ICS asset on the operational networks. The attacker’s goal isn’t ERP or HRIS in this situation—it’s to take advantage of weak OT networks and security designs to spread ransomware to any factory equipment with the sole purpose of encrypting and preventing normal operations. The reality is that 50% of manufacturers still have poor security perimeters or no network segmentation, making the task of infecting more equipment in your factory a breeze. The demarcation between IT and OT alone will no longer cut it—manufacturers must adopt more complete approaches to network segmentation, micro-segmentation, traffic monitoring, device isolation, and real-time monitoring to ensure the spread of ransomware is limited.

It’s Fine! We Have Backups

Unlike IT-managed assets, most manufacturers lack the necessary remediation tools to minimize the risk of successful ransomware within OT environments. For example, only 19%  of manufacturers could recover from backup, leading to forced ransomware payment. Only 55% of the encrypted or destroyed data was recoverable for organizations that could recover. 

It’s essential to ensure that manufacturers have in place backup and disaster recovery policies and procedures, tools that support operational technology equipment, automation of the process to avoid reliance upon human behavior, and that the end-to-end disaster recovery process has been thoroughly tested. With all of this, you’ll be better equipped to ensure that when a successful ransomware event does occur, your organization is confident that recovery is possible. This type of comprehensive strategy will limit your risk of extortion—or worse, plant stoppage.

Don’t Worry! We Have Cybersecurity Insurance

It’s true. Cybersecurity insurance does help defer the costs born from a successful incident, and in today’s age the average cost per incident is $4.47 million in manufacturing. Financial impact aside, insurance won’t mitigate a frustrated and demoralized workforce, it won’t address missed deliverables and brand impact, and should the breach result in the exfiltration of intellectual property, secretive process knowledge, or partner data, it may be a hard-pressed event to recover from. 

Connection recently surveyed clients and found that cybersecurity was a challenging topic. Cybersecurity is evolving as the industry addresses requirements, risks, and the appropriate pricing to impose on manufacturers. Our survey revealed that many clients still do not have cybersecurity insurance. For those that do, 41% of manufacturers saw their premiums increasing, 25% struggled to comply with mandated security requirements, and an alarming 18% were dropped from policies due to lack of necessary security controls or frequency of incidents. Cybersecurity insurance is essential, but it comes with its own challenges and is unlikely to solve all your business risks.

Let’s Make It Happen

With threats rising in operational environments, cybersecurity insurance becoming harder to acquire, maintain, or afford, and successful extortion events impacting production, it’s time to ensure that your company has the right solutions to keep your business operational.

Our Manufacturing Practice regularly works with manufacturing organizations to help them meet security requirements while ensuring operational excellence, a great workplace, and applying the right fitting technology to enable better outcomes. We have a team of experts from trade, an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions, and capabilities to assist IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skillsets with complimentary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most.If your business is interested in learning more about our OT security solutions, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

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Hybrid Meetings and Microsoft Teams Rooms... https://community.connection.com/hybrid-meetings-and-microsoft-teams-rooms-solutions/ May 09, 2023 Krysten Harper https://community.connection.com/author/krysten-harper/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2075079-Hybrid-Meeetings-and-Team-Rooms-BLOG.jpg

Have you ever attended a hybrid meeting? What was your experience like? For many of us, our experience with hybrid meetings has been subpar. When you attend hybrid meetings in person, you must be cognizant of speaking loudly enough for remote attendees to hear you. More than likely, you’re also trying to actively involve these same remote attendees. For those of us who regularly attend hybrid meetings as a remote member, however, there’s a good chance our experiences have been even more challenging. It can be hard to tell who is speaking, voices are mumbled, and if somebody is writing on a physical whiteboard, you can forget about being able to see it. There is also a certain amount of FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—that goes along with attending hybrid meetings remotely. 

The goal of Microsoft Teams Rooms is to change this narrative. Teams Rooms takes the Teams platform you already know and love and brings it to your in-person conference room. Standard conference rooms were designed for the people in the room, where Teams Rooms are designed for everybody in the meeting. This means that everybody has a seat at the table, no matter where they are sitting.  

Microsoft Teams Rooms Solutions

  • Teams Rooms Basic: Microsoft Teams Rooms Basic provides a core hybrid meeting experience to organizations that purchase a certified Microsoft Teams Rooms System at no additional cost. The Basic option includes scheduling, joining meetings, content sharing, and collaborative white boarding, as well as basic security and management capabilities right out-of-the-box.

  • Teams Rooms Pro: Teams Rooms Pro includes all the core features available in Teams Rooms Basic, plus enhanced in-room meeting experiences such as intelligent audio and video, multiscreen support, and a full set of device management capabilities. Teams Rooms Pro is the recommended license for enterprise customers and smaller organizations with larger room counts or more advanced needs.

  • Signature Teams Rooms: For the ultimate Teams Rooms experience, a Signature Teams Room is your answer. A Signature Teams Room is a comprehensive hybrid meeting solution, designed with next-generation room standards. This delivers an elevated hybrid meeting experience, making collaboration easier and interactions even more engaging and inclusive across your meeting spaces. Signature Teams Rooms are designed around two key goals:
    1. Everyone in the meeting feels included, represented and productive. 
    2. Connections feel natural and immersive.

What does this look like? In medium and large spaces, a curved table encircles the AV equipment stack and faces a large, 21:9 aspect ratio display to foster more immersive connections with remote participants. For smaller rooms, a gumdrop or guitar pick-shaped table helps to achieve that same degree of face-to-face engagement.

*Example of a medium-sized Signature Microsoft Teams Room
*Example of a small-sized Signature Microsoft Teams Room

Teams Rooms Solutions at Connection

If you are looking to improve your hybrid meetings experience, attending the Connection Hybrid Meetings and Rooms Workshop is your first step. This workshop is designed to showcase hybrid meetings through the art of the possible immersive experiences, use case design, and deep-dive planning. At the end of the workshop, you can expect actionable recommendations and next steps to deploy and adopt Microsoft Teams Rooms in your environment. Interested in learning more about this workshop? Contact your Account Team today!

Watch our vlog to learn more about Teams Rooms solutions!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAnUH9E29ek
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Not Scared about OT Security? You Should Be! https://community.connection.com/not-scared-about-ot-security-you-should-be/ May 04, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2169881-ISG-Manufacturing-OT-Security-BLOG.png

OT Security Problem

IT has long battled cybersecurity incidents across various industries for years and implemented measures to combat threats in the traditional IT domain. But there has been a massive shift from traditionally targeted industries to manufacturing in the last couple of years. More specifically, targeting manufacturing operational technology (OT) environments where technology, security, connectivity, and endless vulnerabilities exist. Coupling legacy technical debt with the adoption of cutting-edge IIoT and IoT technologies; it’s no wonder this hasn’t happened sooner.

Manufacturing has become the world's #1 most attacked industry for two years in a row. The average cost per incident is $4.47 million, and the business outcomes have never been more tangible, or severe. Gone are the days of casual or low-impact incidents. Today’s attackers are praying on manufacturing OT environments because they understand two things. First, manufacturers have a low tolerance for downtime and the inability to manufacture and ship products to their clients. Second, many manufacturers have a wealth of intellectual property, deep process expertise, and other data worthy of exfiltration.

Because of this, the #1 business outcome is extortion (largely a result of ransomware), and the #2 business outcome is data theft. These two outcomes make up most of the business impact, with extortion resulting in 32% and data theft and 19% of all incident outcomes. Both situations represent massive risk, downtime, business expense, and potential supplier, client, and brand impact. If you’re still not persuaded by the data, then look at a recent Connection Survey of Manufacturers, where we polled OT and IT leaders on their perceptions of cybersecurity risk posed by OT systems and infrastructure. 77% of all leaders viewed the OT environment as a moderate to severe threat to their business. Our peers are very mindful of the situation manufacturers face as attacks ramp up in our industry.

This is no longer if but when. It’s not even when but how often. Regarding frequency, 69% of the manufacturing industry experiences OT incidents at least every two months. This is the new world manufacturers must live within. Attacks are both expected and likely to be more frequent as compared to prior years. Successful attacks with OT environments are also alarming. Defense is no longer the only criterion. Manufacturers must also consider how to detect, contain, and remediate a higher rate of successful attacks to ensure business continuity.This makes complete sense because not all manufacturers are taking the threats seriously when we look at manufacturing OT cybersecurity hygiene and readiness. For example, 80% of manufacturers lack the tools to discover assets, defend, prioritize, and remediate OT/ICS/IoT equipment. These are the basic capabilities all manufacturers should have in place today.

There Is Good News—Solutions Exist to Minimize OT Risks

When mitigating OT risks, many solutions exist and can be tailored to the unique nature of your business, equipment, regulatory compliance, and risk levels. Any manufacturer can and should implement the following recommendations to minimize top threat vectors, most prevalent attacks, and improve overall cybersecurity hygiene.

  1. Industrial Asset Discovery and Visibility: It’s tough to access operational risks when you don’t have visibility into the devices connected to OT networks—but that is precisely where most manufacturers find themselves. 80% of manufacturers had limited or no OT network and asset visibility in 2022. This leaves organizations blind to identifying the types of devices and the risks posed by a wide array of industrial, legacy, and new smart technologies, let alone craft a strategy for creating defense in layers. 

    Many solutions now exist that allow manufacturers to scan, detect, profile, and prioritize based on risk, and ultimately formulate an appropriate strategy for cybersecurity defense, monitoring, and response based on the unique nature of your technology landscape.
     
  2. OT Network Segmentation: Unfortunately, 50% of manufacturers still have poor security parameters or no network segmentation. Segmentation allows manufacturers to isolate heterogeneous devices, coalesce like devices based on the type and risk factors, and most importantly, minimize adjacent infection when cybersecurity attacks are successful. 

    Today’s network and security platforms provide new capabilities that make it easy to segment networks. I’m not talking about the long-utilized approach of a firewall between OT and IT—that no longer cuts it. Organizations must segment or microsegment devices everywhere while applying zero-trust policies to minimize risks. This is especially true within the operational environment where legacy or end-of-life devices may lack patching, or ICS/IoT technologies may have extensive vulnerabilities. 

    If you do nothing else—work with an expert team to assess your network, infrastructure, and policies—and segment your network to mitigate the most significant potential threat to successful attack propagation.
  3. OT Facility and Equipment Access Control:54% of manufacturers lack OT user management solutions, putting their business at risk for unauthorized access, no role restrictions, and worse yet, shared passwords known to all and vulnerable to internal or external threats. 

    For example, regarding authentication and stolen credentials, 20% of all cybersecurity incidents result from poor or non-existent user credential management within operational environments. If your company is looking to ahttps://community.connection.com/mitigating-manufacturing-security-risk-with-access-control/dhere to ISO27001, NIST, or CMMC, putting controls on all equipment within this environment is paramount as you try to address access control, auditing and logging, and integration with identity and access management systems.



    Fortunately, solutions exist today that go beyond traditional end-user access control. It’s possible to leverage secure cryptographic badges (for example) for facility and factory access, as well as access to workstations, virtual terminal sessions, shared devices and kiosks, and industrial control systems (ICS). This means that front-line workers can use a physical item they possess for all forms of access control, all with an intuitive and integrated solution that makes IT, security, and front-line workers happier.
  4. Extended Detection and Response (XDR): Endpoint protection solutions have long existed—most typically require software agents to be deployed on a device. Of course, in the OT environment, installing agents can become complicated due to the type and status of a device. For example, equipment may leverage an unsupported operating system, be end of life, lack patching for known vulnerabilities, or simply because the devices cannot bear the performance hit by invasive agents running on production equipment.

    While traditional endpoint protection solutions are still a part of a complete solution, extended detection and response introduce a layered approach to mitigating some of the typical inadequacies of the OT environment. These modern solutions offer a mix of hardware and software infrastructure, allowing for the monitoring of many types of devices, supporting deep packet inspection, and offering the ability to integrate with upstream monitoring platforms like SIEM. Some XDR solutions offer even deeper capabilities for OT/ICS/IoT equipment, such as virtual patching (this is detecting signatures or known threats without the use of software agents onboard) or behavioral analysis (this is the act of baselining normal device behavior—such as ports, target systems, memory registers, and commands—to identify when a potential attack is underway and deviates from usual activity). 
  5. OT Integration with Corporate-managed SIEM/SOC: Let’s assume you have adequate asset visibility, network segmentation, and protections at the OT level. Successful attacks will still occur despite all the defensive investments. We should then be asking ourselves a series of questions to understand if we have the necessary data to discern and act.
  • How quickly will your cybersecurity teams detect and be alerted?
  • How will they know how many devices or the extent of their tech estate is compromised?
  • How will they know what the event is and what corrective actions should be taken?
  • How quickly can the team remediate to return the business to normal operations?

This is the situation many manufacturers face. They have strong cybersecurity hygiene and integrated monitoring in the traditional IT-managed domain but lack insights from OT. In today’s complex world, manufacturers need a single pane of visibility of their entire enterprise.  

Many solutions make it easier to integrate network, firewall, end-point protection and XDR, and other appliances with corporate SIEM/SOC monitoring. This can be integrated with your own SIEM/SOC, or with a 3rd-party managed service that combines OT and IT into a single integrated view of your business, and the very best approach to shorten time to discovery, containment, and remediation.

Let’s Make It Happen

We understand that manufacturers operate within different subindustries, held to various industry standards and regulations, and that risk is unique to your business. Our Manufacturing Practice, Solution Architects, and Network and Security Services teams work with manufacturing organizations to help them minimize cybersecurity risks so you can focus on what you do best.

Our Manufacturing Practice has a team of experts from trade, an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions, and assists IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skillsets with complimentary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most.If your business is interested in learning more about how we support our clients or the topics covered, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

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Mitigating Manufacturing Security Risk with... https://community.connection.com/mitigating-manufacturing-security-risk-with-access-control/ Apr 25, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2143849-MFG-AccessControl-BLOG.png

We’ve all been there. The business has asked you to improve its security posture due to a recent cybersecurity incident—or perhaps you’re being asked to comply with controls from ISO27001, NIST 800-171, or CMMC. You’ve successfully rolled out modern authentication, cloud-based identity and access management, and multifactor to IT-managed assets. You’ve now made significant progress to 80% of all company computing assets. It’s then you realize you must solve the same challenges in factories full of production equipment, shared devices, kiosks, and an audience of managers and operators who grimace at the thought of change and slower login processes—and who also don’t like the idea of security getting in the way of business.

The OT Authentication Challenge

What worked in the traditional IT domain doesn’t always work in the factory. The equipment is different. There is a frighteningly sizeable heterogeneous domain of devices and machines, including industrial control systems (ICS) with programmable logic controllers (PLC). The list goes on and on. How will your business ever bring secure authentication to this environment?

I like to call this the “last mile.” It’s an ode to the challenge of bringing high-speed Internet to the far reaches of the residential world. It’s not just the equipment but also the kinds of job roles, shared equipment (where people interchangeably log in using credentials plastered to the monitor or keyboard for all to see), and—dare I say it—the reaction from asking factory employees to take an extra 60 seconds to log into a machine that never required a username and password before.

Managers will start barking about how it used to take them zero minutes, and now operators are spending minutes or hours a day logging into computers, adversely impacting factory productivity numbers. You will quickly find yourself in a business change debacle where the simplest of technical changes are drowned out by employees' frustrations, and the loudest voices always outlast yours.

The Reality

There are actually two truths in this situation. And the solution can be found by understanding each side’s perspective. The first truth is that it is essential to consider the way factories work. Productivity does matter, and adding burdensome login procedures is not always a good fit for frontline workers. The other truth is that we must also mitigate security risks. In the past, this security avoidance behavior might have been accepted. In today's world—where OT and IT systems are deeply interconnected and the threats against manufacturing have never been higher—security must be a shared risk with practical solutions implemented.

Unlike before, manufacturing was the #1 most attacked industry globally in 2021 and 2022.1 When Connection surveyed IT and OT leaders across manufacturing organizations, 27% cited poor credential management and 34% bypassed security controls due to a lack of awareness or workflow needs that fit their environmental requirements. This is alarming, but perhaps more frightening than leadership perception are the facts. Regarding actual security threat vectors, one of the top three vectors has consistently been the lack of end-user authentication or stolen credentials, accounting for 20% of all successful cybersecurity incidents. Worse are the business outcomes, with 61% of cybersecurity incidents targeting OT2, and the top two most successful business event outcomes include extortion and data theft.1

A Better Path

Imagine finding an access control solution you could consistently apply across OT equipment and de-risk 20% of likely security incidents in the most heavily targeted and at-risk technology domain. Imagine how this could help you close several standards or regulatory-based controls, including access control, least privilege, audit and logging, and integrated monitoring. Imagine doing this with something all employees already possessed, and it was simple and quick enough that there might be little or no reason to complain.  Such a solution might certainly help with business change adoption and get the business on a better and more secure path.

Well, there is a better way! By leveraging modern secure badges, it’s possible to improve security access for buildings and factories and help organizations deploy access control to a wide range of OT use cases.

Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling applications to shore up OT access control.

Simple End-user Authentication

One of the most significant value propositions of modern secure access badges is leveraging a physical badge—something you possess—to access any number of physical or technology domains. These devices can securely host multiple certificates allowing an organization to reuse a badge beyond traditional physical building access use cases and any number of electronic access control use cases.

Why not use traditional access control credentials and passwords? Well, most industrial workers don’t sit at a desk or perform traditional tasks compared to knowledge workers who spend their whole day on a computer. It’s rare that a knowledge worker’s computer times out because they are constantly using their computers. On the other hand, frontline workers may sit, stand, or move from station to station. They typically need to log in and out of devices dozens or hundreds of times throughout their shift. 

Reusing your security badge to access traditional computers within the plant (IT- or OT-managed) simplifies the process for access control, and it creates a foundation for access across the OT technical estate.

For example, consider an assembler who uses a computer to view digital work instructions. The assembler is busy assembling products and may not actively interact with keyboards or mice during this time. Each time a terminal times out, it requires the worker to log in, and unlocking the session takes time and diverts them from their core responsibilities. This might sound trivial to IT, but it impacts these individuals, their productivity, and their workflow.

Even if traditional terminals utilize the latest standard devices and operating systems, consider how employees actually work and tailor the authentication process to improve their work outcomes and security posture.

Authentication for Shared Devices and Kiosks

Another widespread use case is that of shared devices. These can exist in various flavors, support process equipment, test stands, kiosks, and other factory equipment multiple individuals interact with during a typical shift.

In this scenario, the use case is a bit more complicated because the machine often utilizes a shared administrative account as it runs uninterrupted 24/7. Because of this, the shared device credentials may be known to all employees and openly visible on keyboards or monitors. It doesn’t allow workers to be validated for active employment, least privilege, nor audit which employees accessed the equipment and when.

Combining shared device software and secure badges makes it easy for OT employees and security to have the best of both worlds. Administrative accounts run in the background. By leveraging secure badges, multiple employees can access the shared device while ensuring multiple security controls are met and help you align with your corporate security goals.

Authentication for ICS and PLCs

And then, there are industrial control systems. These devices are the farthest away from the IT domain expertise you can find. That said, more and more of these platforms are being connected to networks, integrated with Industrial IoT platforms for data and automation, and may be at more risk than any other endpoint in the corporation.

These devices are also fit for purpose and tend to lack the additional capacity for security software or access control tools with integration to identity and access management (IAM).  This means anyone with physical access to a HMI or PLC may have access to industrial equipment. And forget about getting any logging or auditing—it just doesn’t exist.

Now imagine how the same security badge could be integrated with the PLC and provide a level of access control that verified employee status, ICS permissions, access level (think standard operator vs. supervisory or administrative) and provide logging and auditing where compliance is required.

Let’s Make It Happen

We understand that manufacturers have a diverse range of equipment and roles in their factories, and it’s essential to meet both cybersecurity best practices while ensuring a highly productive environment. This calls for solutions that meet the needs of IT, security, and operations.

Our Manufacturing Practice regularly works with manufacturing organizations to help them meet security requirements while ensuring operational excellence, a great workplace, and applying the right fitting technology to enable better outcomes.

Our Manufacturing Practice has a team of experts from trade, an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions, and assists IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skillsets with complimentary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most.

If your business is interested in learning more about our OT security solutions, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

1. IBM, 2023, IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023
2. IBM, 2023, IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2022
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How to Minimize the Risk of Ransomware with... https://community.connection.com/how-to-minimize-the-risk-of-ransomware-with-immutable-storage-and-backups/ Apr 13, 2023 Kelly Kempf https://community.connection.com/author/kelly-kempf/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2137108-HC-Immutable-Backup-BLOG.jpg

Data is the most powerful currency in the digital world, with the total cost of a data breach averaging $4.35M (per event).1 Even more alarming, the healthcare industry had the highest data breach cost of any industry at $10.10M (per event).1 That’s more than twice the global average. The impact for businesses is significant and will continue to grow.37% of all businesses were hit by ransomware in 2021, and it cost the world $20 billion. This number is expected to rise to $265 billion by 2031.2

Healthcare data is uniquely targeted and under constant threat from cybercriminals who seek to exploit weaknesses in systems and networks. Healthcare providers are tasked with implementing multiple layers of protection. As noted in our October 2022 Cybersecurity Awareness Podcast, healthcare providers must protect data from the inside out—including front line protection such as implementing security tools/protocols and keeping all assets and systems up to date, as well as a second line of defense, including testing the internal/external environment and taking regular, protected backups. Most healthcare providers have these mechanisms in place today, but how these security protocols are configured—and ultimately interact—plays an important role in securing healthcare data.

What’s So Special about Immutable Storage?

One critical component of protecting patient data from unauthorized access and tampering is immutable storage. Once referred to WORM-based storage (write once, read many), this time-locked, immutable object storage ensures data cannot be altered or deleted once it has been stored. This is achieved by using specialized hardware and software that write data in a way that makes it unchangeable, therefore protecting healthcare data from accidental or intentional tampering. Though back-up-to-cloud is most common, some users may look to traditional storage mechanisms, including hard drives, SSD, and—in rarest instances—tape.3

While traditional backup systems overwrite older data with new data, which can result in the loss of critical patient information, immutable storage can be used to create secure, accessible backups, an important component of cybersecurity and compliance. Even when following the 3-2-1-1-0 golden rule for backups, a virus can still infect each location, therefore destroying the integrity of the data and negating the ability to restore. By contrast, immutable backups retain every version of data that has ever been written, ensuring that even if data is corrupted or deleted, there is always a backup that can be used to restore the lost data. A solution that performs regular, unchangeable backups ensures that any lost data can be quickly and easily restored, minimizing the risk of harm to patients. Additional considerations for backup strategy planning are keeping up with the rate of data creation, retention policy review and configuration, encryption of data in transit and at rest, and isolating backup location.   

Ensure Your Disaster Recovery Measures Are Comprehensive

Healthcare providers must consider the importance of securing patient data, implement appropriate recovery measures, and regularly test their recovery strategy. Immutable storage and backups are critical components—ensuring a copy of the data remains fixed, is always recoverable, and is verifiably secure. Including immutable storage and backups as part of the healthcare security fabric helps meet the unique needs of healthcare providers, delivering both security and peace of mind that they need to operate effectively and safely—and ultimately providing patients with the confidence that their information is protected by their healthcare providers. If you want to learn more about how Connection can help you build a strong, resilient security fabric that includes immutable storage and backups, contact an Account Manager today or visit us online for more information.

1 Cost of a Data Breach 2022 – IBM.  https://www.ibm.com/reports/data-breach?utm_content=SRCWW&p1=Search&p4=43700072379268622&p5=p&gclid=CjwKCAiAxvGfBhB-EiwAMPakqgOo-coSIXQNyxXaF3Modx1qk9tdXXJmX3pHyr45D86Jqn8UKII9YhoCt2IQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

https://www.datacore.com/blog/how-to-protect-backups-from-ransomware/

3 https://www.techtarget.com/searchdatabackup/tip/Use-immutable-backups-to-prevent-data-loss-boost-compliance

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Connection and Texas City Independent School... https://community.connection.com/connection-and-texas-city-independent-school-district-a-success-story/ Apr 06, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/2133756-Texas-City-ISD.jpg

Gina Covington is bright, warm, and an absolute force. Having been the CTO for Texas City Independent School District (ISD) for about a year and a half—bringing over 25 years of education experience to the role—Gina has made huge strides within the district. Texas City is about 50 miles southeast of Houston, and the ISD supports 8,000 students across 13 schools. Since Gina took the role, Texas City ISD has made Microsoft 365 and Windows devices the gold standard across the district. In Gina’s words, the decision to go with Microsoft all started with a question:

“What do our students need to know about technology to be prepared to make valuable contributions when they leave our schools?”

Preparing Students for the Workforce

The decision to go with Microsoft came from sourcing information from teachers and industry leaders, as well as thinking about the real skill sets students will need when they enter the workforce. In Gina’s experience, “If you don't use Microsoft products, you are not prepared for the workforce.”

Using Microsoft tools, students in the Texas City ISD are taught how to professionally write business emails and letters and build presentations. Teachers fully utilize their Microsoft 365 suite through Teams, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and OneNote in their daily lessons, showing students how to be successful in the real world. The powerful sense of collaboration between teachers at the schools and the district team is evident when speaking to Gina. The goal for everyone is to drive student outcomes—whether that is a teacher using Microsoft Translator to easily help ESL students adapt or applying for assistive technology with the instructional technology team to ensure a student’s success—and working together to provide all students with the same opportunities is key. Microsoft Education and Microsoft 365 have provided Texas City ISD with a variety of tools and devices they can leverage to fulfill the common goal of student success.

Right-fit Devices for Students

Upon returning to the campuses after the height of the pandemic, Gina saw a real need in providing an easy-to-use device for the younger students. This is where Jerry Cournoyer, Executive Account Manager at Connection, comes in.

“My predecessor had ordered premium laptops, and that was great for everybody during COVID. But once we were face-to-face again, I realized 3- and 4-year-olds don’t need all of that. They need something different,” said Gina. “So, I reached out to Jerry and several different partners, asking for a simpler device. And, really, no one else has a device like the Surface Go. Jerry was on it immediately. The beauty of working with Connection is that they understand our vision. And what we see as critical for our students is that they move into the real world outside of a K–12 environment.”

“Anytime I need anything, I just say, ‘Hey Jerry, I’m thinking about this. What’s going on?’ I really rely on Jerry to look at what’s out there and he’ll feed me stuff. I’ve got multiple providers that want to do what Connection does for us, but the level of service we get—and the follow up—it’s just...” Gina smiles and shakes her head.

Bobby Mills, the Manager of Network Services at ISD for 17 years—and a parent within the district— agrees, “Yeah, I do the same thing. And not just with Microsoft! Anytime I need a new piece of software, I email or call Jerry first. I always go to Connection because I know they can get it for me, and I don’t have to jump through hoops trying to find it with someone else. I use a lot of network tools and I always just email Jerry. He takes care of me!”

Procurement and Deployment Made Easy

Bobby has been an integral part of the development of ISD’s infrastructure. He currently manages the district’s 10,000 devices using Autopilot and Intune.

“I love Intune,” Bobby states. “I love the management features and the administrative templates. It makes my job easier and more efficient. From a management standpoint, I love that even if someone takes a device home, I can still manage the security of the device.” 

Bobby has worked with Jerry throughout the entire process of going 1:1, as well as utilizing Intune and Autopilot Azure services—and even bringing in a licensing specialist to help when needed.

“And that’s the other thing,” Gina says. “It isn’t just about purchasing. Jerry has resources that he provides for us when we need it. We’ll ask a question, and he is quick to loop someone in. We built four buildings in the last year, and we have 10 facilities that are going to be built. We’ll be relying heavily on Jerry to help support us as we start purchasing for those new facilities.”

Because of the generous size of the district and its multiple campuses, Jerry also works directly with administrators, school secretaries, and Assistant Principals to help them with the hardware they need, often providing a high- and low-end option, along with the information required to make the best decision.

“He adds so much value for not only me and Bobby, but also to the entire district. Those people who are out there, boots on the ground, really doing the work,” Gina says. “The key for us is the end user. We are the end user for Connection in the same way students and staff are end users for us. We know that Connection values their end users. Jerry typically communicates to me before I have a chance to communicate back to him on something. He lets me know when things are set to expire—which has been huge in my transition to this role because there was not a lot of documentation for me. Before we didn’t know things were going to expire until they had expired, and Jerry has filled that need for us.”

The feeling is clearly mutual. “I’m more than thankful to be working with Gina and Bobby,” Jerry says. “Anything I can do for them; they know they are the best and most important people to my business. I am thankful that I get the chance to work with them. And I’m happy to do it.” What more could you ask for in customer service?

Reach out to your Connection Account team to learn more about Microsoft Education services and solutions we can provide.

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A New Advantage for Your Warehouse: How... https://community.connection.com/a-new-advantage-for-your-warehouse-how-visual-picking-improves-accuracy-and-efficiency/ Mar 30, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/2125871-MFR-Warehouse-Visual-Picking-BLOG.jpg

The rise of e-commerce and the increasing demand for fast and efficient delivery have pressured warehouse operations to keep pace. Seeking productivity and differentiation, visual picking solutions have emerged as game changers in the logistics and supply chain industry. Warehouse operations are also not immune from workforce shortages and high turnover challenges. This means that leaders must adapt and transform, all while mitigating a shortage of skilled workers to keep business operational and clients happy.

How Does Visual Picking Work?

In traditional manual picking operations, workers are tasked with physically locating and retrieving items from the shelves to fulfill customer orders. This process can be time-consuming and error-prone, leading to delayed deliveries and increased labor costs. Visual picking solutions address these challenges by automating the picking process, improving accuracy and efficiency, and reducing the need for manual labor.

Visual picking solutions use cameras and augmented reality mobility devices to identify and locate items in the warehouse. The system can be integrated with existing warehouse management systems (WMS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP), and customized to work with different product types and warehouse configurations.

When a customer order is received, the visual picking solution uses image recognition technology to identify the items required. The system then guides the worker to the exact location of the items, reducing the time and effort required to search for them physically. This process is repeated for each item in the order, allowing the worker to quickly and efficiently retrieve all the items and prepare them for shipment. Some solutions even guide palletization or the most optimal way to load a pallet to ensure a stable, weight-based pallet process to ensure goods don’t tip or crush under the weight or in transit.

Benefits of Visual Picking

  1. Increased Accuracy: Visual picking solutions can accurately identify and locate items, reducing the risk of errors and increasing the accuracy of the picking process.
  2. Increased Efficiency: By automating the picking process, visual picking solutions can significantly increase the speed and efficiency of the picking process, reducing the time it takes to complete orders and increasing overall productivity.
  3. Increased Flexibility: Visual picking solutions can be easily adapted to different warehouse configurations and product types, providing greater flexibility for companies as their needs change.
  4. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: By increasing the accuracy and speed of the picking process, visual picking solutions can help companies meet customer demands more effectively and support customer demand and growth, leading to increased customer satisfaction.
  5. Shortened Training and Time to Productivity: With high workforce turnover, visual picking solutions help by automating the picking process, turning new hires into productive pickers in hours vs. days.

Visual picking is a game changer for warehouse and logistics operations. Visual picking solutions can transform the way warehouses operate by automating the picking process and improving accuracy, efficiency, and safety. Companies adopting this technology will have a competitive edge and be better equipped to meet the demands of the modern e-commerce landscape.

Get Started with Help from the Experts

We understand that manufacturers are at different points in their smart manufacturing initiatives. Our Manufacturing Practice regularly works with manufacturing organizations to help them grow and improve their business by applying enabling technologies, including within warehouse operations.

Our Manufacturing Practice has a team of experts, an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions, and capabilities to assist IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skillsets with complimentary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most. Be sure to engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

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Connection Professional Development:... https://community.connection.com/connection-professional-development-microsoft-in-education/ Mar 22, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/2107421-Blog-Microsoft-Professional-Dev-BLOG.jpg

Prior to my role at Connection, I was a Microsoft Learning Consultant and spent six years training educators and administrators on Microsoft tools all over New York City and New Jersey. It was fun and hard, and exhilarating. Coming from an Educational Publishing background, it was a great step into the technological side of education, and I loved it. When I took my role as a Microsoft Partner Marketing Specialist at Connection, I was thrilled to see one of my former Learning Consultant colleagues, Nicole Caldwell, in a role at Connection as a Professional Development Specialist. 

Nicole and I only worked together for a brief time, (she covered my training and accounts while I was on parental leave!), but she was so warm and kind—and it was great to see a familiar face when I came onboard. Through Nicole, I met her equally amazing colleague Cindy Daniels, also a Professional Development Specialist, and had the opportunity to learn more about what they—and Connection’s Professional Development Team—do in education. 

Microsoft Global Trainer Partner Program

Connection is a member of the Microsoft Global Trainer Partner Program, and our Professional Development Specialists are Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Certified to deliver training for educators on Microsoft’s behalf for Connection. Highly skilled and curious, both Nicole and Cindy have had years of experience in and out of the classroom and understand the world of the educator. They speak the language and know how to approach educators and education in general from an insider's standpoint. That unique point of view allows them to build the trust needed to go into a school or to lead sessions at EdTech conferences and show the multitude of ways Microsoft in Education tools can improve communication and collaboration among staff, students, and the greater school community to such a positive reception. Teaching teachers can be extraordinarily difficult. Having that educator connection as a starting point can make a world of difference. 

Get the Most Out of Microsoft 365 and More

Supporting both K–12 and Higher Ed, the Professional Development Specialists at Connection are strategic in working with schools and districts to create customized plans for systemic digital transformation with Microsoft 365. Their main goal is to engage with educators and leaders to provide learning opportunities that align with Microsoft Educator programs and are authentic experiences. Nicole and Cindy both provide in-person (either at schools or alternatively at a nearby Microsoft facility) and virtual training, or a combination of both. The beauty of the partnership Connection’s Professional Development Specialists provide is their ability to assess your top needs and meet you where you are—whether that is leveraging modern technology and apps or a complete MIE Academy—and then deliver standard or customized trainings based on those needs.

I have worked with both Cindy and Nicole on Connection customer success stories and have heard firsthand how much of an asset they have become within the institutions they work with. From Cindy’s MIE training academies with the UNC Teaching Fellows to Nicole’s partnership encouraging the tinkering mentality with the David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching, they have made a concentrated effort to connect with both veteran teachers as well as teaching students to provide Microsoft solutions in the classroom. They are natural teachers—patient, charismatic, engaging, knowledgeable, and innovative in their approach—making them ideal partners to drive growth and increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning using Microsoft 365.

Watch our vlog to learn more about Microsoft professional development for educators!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YVQzTPG0XM&t=4s

Learn how Connection can help you leverage Microsoft technology and apps through courses led by our MIE Certified Professional Development Specialists. Please reach out to your Account Team or see a complete list of course offerings here

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Retail 2023 – A Year of Smart Technology https://community.connection.com/retail-2023-a-year-of-smart-technology/ Mar 08, 2023 Brian Gallagher https://community.connection.com/author/brian-gallagher/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/2096323-ISG-Retail-2023-Technology-Trends-BLOG.jpg

The technology needs in retail for 2023 might be the clearest we have ever experienced. Over the past five years, retailers of all sizes have had opportunities to achieve detailed insights into their customers’ experiences and engagement with their brand, as well as how to use that engagement to drive profit. As a retailer, your understanding of customer behavior through multiple omnichannel touchpoints has helped identify the path to growth. 2023 needs to be a year of focus on those technologies required to embrace the customer’s desired experience.

The cool thing about 2023 technologies in retail is that almost everything you do for a customer will have a positive impact on your employees. Staffing and employee satisfaction are a struggle for every retailer. This will not change in 2023 unless you allow technology to augment your workforce. Unlike years past, your employees are openly embracing technology. The employee count will never be what it once was, but the quality can be better than ever.

What are the technologies that enhance both customer experience and employee productivity? Let’s explore three key areas that will make a big impact in the coming year.

Smart Store Technologies

You’re likely already familiar with smart home technologies—everything from security cameras and thermostats to kitchen appliances—and maybe you even have a few of these smart devices to help make your home life more convenient. These same technologies are available to elevate your business—from IoT devices to AI and edge computing. By implementing smart store technologies, you can not only truly “wow” your customers, but also improve the productivity of your team members. Cameras powered by AI can help display targeted marketing based on who is currently in the store. A device can not only scan for empty shelves and create a pick list—it can also suggest alternatives for those items that are no longer available. The possibilities for smart store technologies are limitless—and they’re critical to improving the in-store experience for both customers and employees.  

POS and Payment Solutions

Consumers expect to have multiple payment options, including tap and mobile pay, yet the majority of POS systems currently in use are not capable of accepting mobile payments or tap to pay.

Retail-Connection-POS

While the two likely reasons are cost and POS system age, retailers should not be shortsighted. Any POS or payment device more than five years old is considered a dinosaur. The omnichannel integration that your customers desire cannot function in legacy systems.

Many younger customers don’t even carry a credit card and are hesitant to insert it into a card reader because of security concerns. Even if your current POS and payment systems still function, investing in updated models that offer secure payment options will bring you and your customers added convenience and peace of mind.

Digital Signage and Marketing

Customers want a very personalized experience, and that includes the digital displays they encounter in your store. Today’s marketing teams are focused on dynamic engagement with customers. You can create a solution consisting of smart technologies, content management systems, and displays to deliver personalized, targeted messaging to each type of shopper you might find in your store. When your customer feels that you’re speaking directly to them—that kind of engagement can deliver amazing results.

Where Do You Start?

There’s no time like the present to begin building your retail transformation blueprint. Matching your solutions to your organization’s unique challenges is the key to optimizing resources and transforming experiences for customers and employees alike. You do not have time or resources to waste. I recommend taking a partner such as Connection that can bridge the gap between your business, ISV providers, and technology partners. Engage our Retail Practice today to get started!

Listen to our retail podcast featuring NVIDIA and Lenovo

This episode of TechSperience explores how AI solutions – a combination of data management, connectivity, edge computing devices, and software – can create powerful results for retailers.
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Technology Solutions that Will Transform... https://community.connection.com/technology-solutions-that-will-transform-heart-care/ Mar 07, 2023 Jennifer Johnson https://community.connection.com/author/jennifer-johnson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/2083178-March-Healthcare-BLOG.jpg

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, attributing to more than 877,500 deaths annually. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that more than 18.2 million American adults have coronary heart disease, making it the most common type of heart disease in the United States. Heart disease and stroke have a staggering economic impact, costing $216M per year and $147M in lost productivity on the job. 

Patients are advised to maintain a healthy weight, incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins into their diet, manage stress, and begin a smoking cessation program to take steps toward a heart healthy lifestyle. Doctors, healthcare professionals, and insurers are increasingly leaning on technology as an ally for improving the health of their patients.

Digital Innovation in Patient Healthcare

Driven in part by technology democratization—as more than 85% of U.S. adults own a smartphone—combined with the increase in remote work and the high adoption of IoT devices in the home (including ambient technology like Alexa and wearables that track basic and advanced biometrics), leveraging technology to support a healthy lifestyle has become easier than ever.

Connection has built a broad offering of remote patient monitoring solutions and population health tools that give healthcare providers, insurers, and patients access to technology that they can be used to track their health habits. Weekly and sometimes daily tracking of steps taken, floors climbed, weight, blood pressure, and glucose levels can help patients take a more active role in managing their chronic health conditions using medical-grade devices that can connect to their smartphone. Integration back to the patient’s electronic health records empower the clinician to adjust treatment and care needs in near real-time.

The promise of “Doc-in-a-Box” technology has been available to some extent for years, particularly with large retailers. Today, the devices themselves are more cost-effective, the reimbursements through CMS and private insurers are more favorable, and the technology has evolved such that a large swath of patients with varying chronic conditions can be managed using a single dashboard. When combined with population health applications or an applied AI algorithm, technology and empathy can improve clinical decision-making and patient outcomes.

Connection’s healthcare IT experts are here to help you find, customize, and implement the right technology to achieve your organization’s goals. Visit us online or contact your Account Manager to learn more. 

Connection Healthcare IT
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Kickstart Your Cloud Journey with the AVS... https://community.connection.com/kickstart-your-cloud-journey-with-the-avs-pilot-program/ Mar 02, 2023 Makayla Mota https://community.connection.com/author/makayla-mota/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2075690-AVS-Pilot-Program.jpg

Are you curious about Azure VMware Solution (AVS)? Do you still have questions about what exactly it entails? In a previous post, we went over the basics and benefits of AVS. The simplest way to think of it is as a solution supported by Microsoft that constructs a fast track to the cloud by migrating or extending existing VMware workloads from on-premises environments to Azure. This cloud modernization solution comes with the added benefit of reduced cost, effort, and risk of retooling operations.

The Connection AVS Pilot Program is an opportunity to work with our cloud migration experts to form a strategic cloud approach that will enable your organization to expedite innovation, improve efficiency, and develop a competitive advantage. Within the pilot program, you can expect a comprehensive and strategic recommendation from our team that fits your management and optimization goals, allowing your organization to gain familiarity with this technology while piloting a few select workloads.

A Connection Cloud Expert will work with you to offer their guidance as they walk through your current infrastructure and workloads, providing a detailed analysis of your resources, consisting of:

  • Azure Readiness Summary
  • Recommendations for appropriate Azure VM configurations
  • Deploy pilot environment for select workloads
  • Estimated monthly cost for hosting your Azure environment

Together we will develop a custom and strategic migration plan, unique to your business needs, that meets the technical and operational requirements for improved business outcomes.

So, what’s in it for you? Here are some use cases of what your organization can gain from your participation in our AVS Pilot Program:

On-premises Data Center Footprint Reduction

Shift any vSphere-based workloads to Azure in a non-disruptive, automated, and scalable manner without changing the underlying vSphere hypervisor. Reduce the risk of rearchitecting and eliminate future hardware refresh headaches and capacity limitations.

Data Center Expansion Based on Demand

Seamlessly expand or augment data center capacity—and adjust your costs—on demand, via self-service provisioning. Reduce your up-front investment, accelerate speed of provisioning, and reduce complexity with the same architecture and policies across both your on-premises infrastructure and the cloud.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

By using a VMware Stack deployed in Azure, you are automatically setting up an on-demand disaster recovery site for an on-premises data center. VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) brings proven DR capabilities to AVS. SRM for AVS offers an intuitive and simplified experience for installation and lifecycle management of SRM, directly through the Azure portal.

Application Modernization

With AVS, you can keep managing your migrated environments with the same VMware tools you already know, while you are modernizing your applications with Azure-native management, security, and services. It’s a simple and flexible way to take on modernization at your leisure.  Azure VMware Solution provides a hyperconverged architecture designed to run your most demanding VMware workloads:

  • Run Oracle, Microsoft SQL server, middleware systems, and high-performance no-SQL databases.
  • Unify DevOps across VMware and Azure.
  • Optimize VMware administration for Azure services and solutions that can be applied across all your workloads.
  • Access public cloud services without having to expand your data center or rearchitect your applications.
  • Centralize identities, access control policies, logging, and monitoring for VMware applications on Azure.

Cloud Desktop Virtualization

The most common mode of operation for virtual desktops is now hybrid, where enterprises host desktop workloads on both on-premises infrastructure and public clouds. VMware Horizon on Azure VMware Solution lets you combine on-premises and Azure-hosted virtual desktops and apps into a uniform pool with fully consistent user and management experiences.

Watch our vlog to learn more about the Connection AVS Pilot Program!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RPrX-1M7rI&t=61s

What have you got to lose? Contact your Connection Account team to learn more about the Azure VMware Solution Pilot Program—and let’s kickstart your journey to the cloud.

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Modern Warehouse Operations: Transformation... https://community.connection.com/modern-warehouse-operations-transformation-is-here/ Mar 02, 2023 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2085160-Manufacturing-Modern-Warehouse-BLOG.jpg

Today’s warehouses play a vital role in the overall efficiency of factories and the supply chain. Technology advancements have enabled warehouses to operate more efficiently and effectively, from automating tasks to improving the accuracy of inventory management, technology has had a profound impact on warehouse operations.

It’s also important to point out that the same macro headwinds affecting research, engineering, and the factories also impact the warehouse. Workforce shortages, high turnover, and a lack of skilled warehouse associates are fueling investments that manufacturers might have otherwise ignored in years past. The cost of not automating, not augmenting the workforce, and not scaling up productivity is greater than the cost of warehouse technology investment.

Where are manufacturers investing in warehouse operations? The following are some of the most common investments we’re seeing and supporting with our clients:

1. Automated Material Handling Systems (AMHS)—Automated Material Handling Systems use robots, conveyors, and automated storage and retrieval systems to handle materials in a warehouse efficiently. This technology has dramatically improved inventory management’s speed and accuracy, and reduced the need for manual labor.

2. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)—Warehouse Management Systems are software solutions that help manage and optimize warehouse storage, retrieval, and inventory distribution. This technology provides real-time data on inventory levels, order status, and shipping schedules, enabling warehouse managers to make informed decisions. WMS software also runs atop of the modern hardware devices used by the put and pick, receiving, and shipping processes to improve how work gets done correctly every time. These platforms also integrate with ERP, 3PL, and transportation and logistics companies to drive a more efficient supply chain.

3. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)—Radio Frequency Identification is a wireless technology used to track the movement of inventory in a warehouse. RFID tags are attached to products, and RFID readers are used to track their movement in real time. This technology has greatly improved inventory management accuracy and reduced the time required to locate products in a warehouse. The technology can also streamline and automate many transactions, allowing warehouse associates to focus on more value-added activities.

4. Warehouse Robotics—Warehouse robotics includes a range of technologies, including pick-and-place robots, mobile robots, autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). These technologies automate tasks such as order picking, packing, and transporting goods, freeing up human workers to focus on more complex tasks. Warehouse robotics has greatly increased warehouses’ efficiency and productivity and reduced the risk of injury to workers.

5. Network Infrastructure—I would be remiss by ignoring the underlying infrastructure. We hear it all the time from our manufacturing clients. They implement new technologies, whether that is mobile scanners, forklift mobility, tablets, or AMRs at scale, but fail to include robust wireless, directional antennas, or modern technologies like private cellular.

Traditional networking done right ensures all endpoints have a strong signal and no dead spots, which are critical to ensure positive end-user adoption and productivity. Private cellular is another great technology. It allows your organization to deliver strong 5G signals anywhere in the warehouse, eliminates access point hopping, and provides constant access for high mobility and high bandwidth applications. Most warehouse devices natively support 5G, and when it comes to the high mobility use cases, including forklifts and AMRs. 

Forklifts Deserve Love Too

In manufacturing, we often speak to the most advanced technologies surrounding smart manufacturing or Industry 4.0, like artificial intelligence and robotics. Not every business is ready to adopt the latest technologies in the marketplace. Investing in forklift software, mounted tablets, and modern warehouse scanners can significantly increase productivity and support growth.

Like any other business process, opportunities to simplify and increase forklift productivity will help mitigate workforce challenges or help your business scale to match growth in demand. Whether your business is performing paper-based picking, or looking to upgrade that old end-of-life forklift technology, modern forklift solutions have advanced and can provide more capabilities to improve productivity and ergonomics, support a wide range of tasks, and even contribute to improved safety.

For example, some solutions detect possible collisions, prevent mobile device usage while in motion, and even reduce fatigue or repetitive injury through product design.

Let’s Make It Happen

We understand that manufacturers are at different points in their smart warehouse operations. Our Manufacturing Practice regularly works with manufacturing organizations to help them grow and improve their business by applying enabling technologies to maximize warehouse resources, and support business objectives.

Our Manufacturing Practice has a team of experts from trade and an evolving portfolio of manufacturing solutions. It assists IT and OT teams by augmenting their existing skillsets with complimentary advisory services to help your business accelerate technology adoption where it matters most. If your business is interested in learning more about how we support modern warehouse operations, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to discover more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.


Ryan-Spurr-Ask-the-Experts-LinkedIn-Live

Don’t miss our upcoming LinkedIn Live event covering a number of security topics related to the manufacturing industry. Submit your questions now!

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How to Foster Equitable Learning Experiences... https://community.connection.com/how-to-foster-equitable-learning-experiences-with-modern-technology/ Mar 01, 2023 Ashley Lofaro https://community.connection.com/author/ashley-lofaro/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2004671-Microsoft-EDU-BLOG-1.jpg

All students deserve access to an equitable education—including best-in-class learning solutions and technologies—regardless of their ability, income, language, location, or identity. They need access to learning materials as well as the means to create and collaborate with other students and teachers, securely and at scale. 

At the same time, teachers need to create an engaging learning environment—in the classroom, online, or hybrid— that meets the needs of students of all abilities and learning preferences. Administrators must provide secure, reliable access to devices, apps, and information while overseeing limited technology budgets and maintaining equity for all learners, regardless of socioeconomic status.

 According to a recent Gallup survey, approximately 65% of teachers surveyed say they use digital learning tools to teach every day.

And in today’s post-pandemic environment, equity is especially significant. The National Education Association found that an estimated 25% of 5- to 17-year-old students didn’t have what they needed for online learning.

To help educators unlock the full potential of every student, Microsoft reimagined Windows, offering powerful tools to learn, collaborate, and create in a secure and trusted environment. Windows Education was designed to bring even more features to support the inclusive and equitable approach to education.

Inclusively Designed

Accessibility features support inclusion for students with diverse abilities and learning styles. Each student should have the resources and support they need to reach their full potential.

2.5 million students in the US alone have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia

52% of U.S. teachers have non-native English speakers in their classrooms

Source: National Education Association

Windows 11 offers built-in tools that help create a non-stigmatizing learning environment for students of all abilities and learning styles. ​For example, students can use a digital pen to write and draw. They can also access files and apps using their voice or gestures. For visually impaired students, the Immersive Reader feature can support students who are learning to read or for those that need extra help. Teachers can leverage real-time closed captions to help students with hearing impairments or to maintain quiet in the classroom. 

All Windows 11 devices come with high-definition cameras and includes smart features to filter out noise and distractions. For students with vision loss or color-blindness, there is a new offering called Color Filters which has six built-in options to enhance visibility.

Secure and Scalable

Approximately 13% of educational institutions have reported ransomware attacks—the most of any sector. By using a multi-layered approach—from the device to the cloud­—Windows 11 devices help educational institutions protect student privacy and avoid phishing scams, cyberthreats, and other malicious activity, at school and online. 

Windows 11 offers powerful, always-on security that’s instantly available such as Windows Defender Antivirus, delivering built-in threat protection that helps detect and block malware, and Windows Defender SmartScreen to help protect students from unsafe web content and downloads.​

IT leaders can optimize today’s learning environment and keep devices running smoothly all year long with zero-touch deployment and management. Windows 11 comes with:  

  • Windows Autopilot: Low-touch deployment and management via the cloud
  • Azure Active Directory (subscription sold separately): Enable single sign-on to minimize disruption and manage identities and access
  • Intune for Education: Simplify management and deployment while optimizing device performance all year long

A Partnership to Support Teachers and School Districts

Without the right technology partner, implementing a new solution takes time, IT resources, and several rounds of trial and error that can disrupt educators’ ability to teach. Together, Connection and Microsoft provide education-first technology solutions to schools. In addition to equipping educators and students with the appropriate devices and software, Connection also offers:

Configuration and Deployment Solutions: Connection’s Technology Integration and Deployment Center can deliver a district-wide deployment of devices configured to each school’s needs for out-of-the-box readiness. Connection can tackle provisioning, imaging, kitting, and asset tagging prior to deployment to help alleviate the work on IT teams. 

Professional Development and Training: Connection is a certified Microsoft Global Training Partner. Our in-house trainers are former teachers that can work with school districts to deliver resources and instruction to educators on the best way to utilize their Microsoft products to create a personalized learning environment.

Cybersecurity Assessments and Advisory: Connection offers advisory services to help optimize school system cybersecurity. Experts can assess the school’s environment, identify risks, and provide strategies to remedy unsafe areas. We also can help districts maintain a secure environment through managed services, 24/7 monitoring, and incident response. 

Cloud Journey Support: As a Microsoft Azure Expert MSP, our cloud experts can guide you through workload migrations and constructing customized cloud solutions. Connection will work to ensure your Azure environment is working the way you need it to—at a cost that won’t break your budget.

To learn more about Windows 11, contact your Connection Account Manager or visit the Microsoft Education page for additional resources on equitable learning.

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TechSperience Episode 118: Optimize IT... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-118-optimize-it-support-and-manageability-in-todays-remote-environment/ Feb 21, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2060228-Intel-TIDC-Podcast-BLOG.jpg

It’s time to rethink your IT strategy and support for remote employees. Learn how to simplify device manageability including provisioning, deployment, and security in this podcast featuring experts from Intel and Connection.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests:

  • Rhett Livengood, Director of Digital Business Enabling, Intel
  • Mark Wulfhorst, Director of Technical Services and Solutions, Technology Integration and Distribution Center, Connection

You can hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or Podbean

Show Notes:

[1:28] What has been the major change in IT support needs since the pandemic? Many remote employees became their own IT support. Just as we Google answers to general questions in our daily lives, we’ve found that users also searched online to get their IT questions answered. The team at Intel recognized this trend, and we’ve been working to develop ways to make it easier on the end user and the IT teams that support them.

[3:18] What should IT teams consider? One of the most common asks are related to managing devices out in the field. It’s about having the right tools such as an endpoint manager and means to provide out-of-band support. Those conversations also transition into permissions and device hardening to address security concerns. We went from deploying devices to offices to now shipping to hundreds of individual homes. This can tie up a lot of time and resources for organizations that don’t have a vendor or partner that can do this on their behalf.

[7:00] Security is critical. What should IT teams consider as potential solutions to minimize threats? Employee training is essential. The biggest risk is someone clicking on a link they shouldn’t have and installing malware accidently. If you have cloud-based apps, it’s important to understand the nuances related to cloud. If you don’t have expertise, make sure to work with a provider or partner that can help guide you. There are other proactive ways to minimize security risks such as having devices hardened, scanned, and processed according to your group’s policies. Connection can offer these services through our Technology Integration and Deployment Center before sending devices to an employee.

[12:32] How have Intel and Connection partnered together to help solve for remote device management? Intel vPro® features Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) built into the system. Intel AMT streamlines device management so IT staff can remotely assess, monitor, repair, and update PCs quickly and efficiently, reducing downtime for IT and employees. Connection can activate Intel AMT features in devices prior to deployment to make provisioning and manageability easier.

[16:50] What are some additional features of vPro that can support hybrid and remote users? From 2020 to 2022, usage of Intel AMT increased three times due to COVID and remote work. Intel has worked closely with many of our partners like Microsoft and CrowdStrike to elevate security features. Intel has also enhanced battery life, developed fast-charging capabilities, and worked on wireless enhancements with Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. vPro can also optimize your bandwidth to prioritize video calls rather than your kids’ gaming connection. We’re also looking into syncing across devices such as smartphones to further enhance users’ experience.

Contact an Account Manager if you’d like to learn more about Connection’s custom configuration and deployment solutions. You can also visit connection.com/intel to learn more about Intel AMT features for streamlined device manageability.

https://vimeo.com/772066253
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Demystifying Microsoft 365 Defender https://community.connection.com/demystifying-microsoft-365-defender/ Feb 21, 2023 Krysten Harper https://community.connection.com/author/krysten-harper/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2057730-Microsoft-365-Defender-BLOG.jpg

Via my email, I recently won an all-expenses paid vacation to Hawaii and received a generous scholarship offer to continue my education. I was contacted by Mackenzie Scott, three different Powerball winners, and Interpol—all of whom offered me a substantial amount of money in exchange for completing a very small task. Sounds too good to be true? Alas, as the adage says, “If it’s too good to be true...it’s probably spam.”

Spam is nothing new, but what is new and continues to increase in severity is the number of risks businesses today are facing. Keeping assets out of the hands of malicious actors was much more straightforward when you could place a perimeter around a physical corporate network. Nowadays, though, with Wi-Fi, remote working, and cloud services, assets are no longer in the physical network. Microsoft Security looks to address these risks and protect assets wherever they are by empowering companies to do more with less.

Which solution is right for your business? Let’s look at four short, real-life scenarios and the Microsoft 365 Defender solutions that can protect your company against a similar fate. 

The Curious Coworker

After a recent promotion, your coworker moves into a new corner office and finds a USB drive in one of the desk drawers. Unsure of what is on it, she plugs it into her laptop, only to find that it contains a virus.

Had your company utilized Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, this situation could have been avoided. Defender for Endpoint is designed to help enterprise networks prevent, investigate, and respond to advanced threats on their endpoints. It secures end-user devices, such as laptops or tablets, by providing protection from ransomware, malware, phishing, and other threats.

 

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint

The Tantalizing Turkey

It’s November 15, and you receive an email telling you your company is giving you a free turkey for Thanksgiving! You haven’t heard anybody mention this initiative, but there is a company logo at the top of the email, and you really want this turkey. After clicking on the link to schedule your pickup time, you realize there is, in fact, no free turkey. You’ve just fallen for a phishing attack.

If this sounds like something that could happen at your organization, Microsoft Defender for Office 365 is the solution for you. 

Microsoft Defender for Office 365

Defender for Office 365 is a cloud-based email filtering service that protects your business from threats—such as phishing or malware attacks—to email and collaboration tools. In addition to threat protection, it also provides investigation and remediation capabilities to help teams more efficiently identify and respond to threats. 

The Million Dollar Mistake 

You are looking for a way to better track customer referrals and come across a new app that looks to be just what you need. You enter all your customer information and are thrilled with the results! A few months later, the legal department calls you into their office to let you know the company has received a $2 million fine for breach of a customer’s personal information. 

How could this have been prevented? By utilizing Defender for Cloud Apps! Defender for Cloud Apps allows you to identify the cloud apps, IaaS, and PaaS services used by your organization. It also allows you to investigate usage patterns and assess the risk levels of more than 31,000 SaaS apps against more than 80 risks, enabling you to manage the apps to ensure proper security and compliance and prevent costly breaches. 

Microsoft Defender for Cloud

The Ill-fated Information 

A maintenance employee at a local elementary school uses their supervisor’s computer to gain access to classified information on the students and teachers. He downloads the information to an Excel spreadsheet and emails it to himself. 

In this scenario, Defender for Identity could have prevented this from happening by blocking the employee’s attempt to access the computer. Defender for Identity is cloud-based security that utilizes the customer’s on-premises Active Directory to identify, detect, and investigate internal threats, ultimately protecting your organization against malicious insider actions. 

Microsoft 365 Defender vs. Microsoft Defender for Identity

Every company needs modern IT security, but not every company has a trusted resource to help them protect their business. Connection offers Microsoft solutions for every step of your journey—from procurement, to consultation, to professional services, and ultimately to managed services. 

With an integrated Microsoft 365 Defender solution from Connection, your company can detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to threats and attacks across endpoints, identities, email, and applications. Reach out to your Account Team today to learn how embracing a do more with less approach to security can help you protect your business and optimize security costs in 2023.

Checkout our vlog to learn more about how Microsoft 365 Defender can help protect your users from cyber threats!

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Upgrading to Microsoft Teams Premium https://community.connection.com/upgrading-to-microsoft-teams-premium/ Feb 14, 2023 Paden Livingston https://community.connection.com/author/paden-livingston/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2055821-Microsoft-Teams-Upgrade-BLOG.jpg

When dropping my partner off at work, I noticed she was using Microsoft Teams on her phone to chat with coworkers while we were in the Dunkin’ parking lot. It illustrated a point that Teams is vital to most organizations in today’s business framework. The ability to collaborate with anyone in your organization at the click of a button streamlines efficiency in organizational communication. 

And guess what? Now there will be a Teams Premium edition! This upgrade offers a more holistic approach to Teams that has legitimate benefits for customers. Let's look deeper into add-on licenses.

Why Upgrade to a Teams Premium License?

Like their change to Teams Room Pro recently, Microsoft is enhancing their Teams features to an all-inclusive single payment option, Teams Premium. The base Teams license will still be included in most Microsoft and Office 365 subscriptions, but now customers can purchase Teams Premium as an add-on. Here are some of the enhanced features in Teams Premium:

  • More personalized and intelligent meetings and webinars
  • Enhanced protection for meetings
  • Advanced management and reporting capabilities for IT
  • Advanced Virtual Appointments

Teams Premium will include more features in the areas of Meetings, Webinars, Meeting Protection, Meeting Reporting, and Virtual Appointments. You can see tables that break down the differences on Microsoft Learn.

Microsoft Teams

What’s the Catch?

There will be some features that will be moved from the Base Teams license to the Teams Premium license exclusively. The below information outlines which features will be permanently migrating to Teams Premium and the grace period current Teams users have for each feature:

  • Live translated captions: Available to all Teams subscribers for a 60-day grace period after Teams Premium general availability.
  • Timeline markers in Teams meeting recordings for when a user left or joined meetings: Available to all Teams subscribers for a 60-day grace period after Teams Premium general availability.
  • Custom organization of Together mode scenes: Available to all Teams subscribers for a 30-day grace period after Teams Premium general availability.
  • Virtual Appointments—SMS notifications: Available to all Teams subscribers for a 30-day grace period after Teams Premium general availability.
  • Virtual Appointments—Organizational analytics in the Teams admin center: Available to all Teams subscribers for a 30-day grace period after Teams Premium general availability.
  • Virtual Appointments—Scheduled queue view: Available to all Teams subscribers for a 30-day grace period after Teams Premium general availability.

After the Grace Period ends on a feature, it will no longer be available in the Base Teams license and the Teams Premium license will need to be purchased. 

Why Pay Extra for Teams Premium?

Along with the enhanced and migrated features, Teams Premium offers organizations the opportunity to further their effective communication through a new avenue. This path will see end users experience a more personalized way to communicate. They will have more control, and the IT department will have new control features as well. 

Microsoft realizes how important Teams is to an organization. It allows employees to talk from anywhere they have Internet access, even in a Dunkin’ parking lot on their way to work. That is why they are enhancing the product and making it even more essential. This product may be a game changer, and it is better to be ahead of this change than play catch-up. Teams Premium will be available for purchase in February 2023. Please get in touch with your Connection Account Team for more information.

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TechSperience Episode 117: Optimize... https://community.connection.com/techsperience-episode-117-optimize-manufacturing-operations-with-asset-tracking-technologies/ Feb 09, 2023 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2051282-Zebra-Asset-Tracking-BLOG.jpg

The aftereffects of COVID-19 have brought new challenges requiring new ways of thinking. Most manufacturers leverage asset tracking technologies to minimize loss, but real-time location or asset tracking can identify operational efficiencies throughout the entire supply chain lifecycle. Asset tracking gives you the data needed to make informed decisions and uncover opportunities for process improvements. Experts from Zebra and Connection share example use cases in manufacturing and describe how you can gain new insights to lower costs, maximize resources, and stay competitive.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: 

Terry Price, Senior Sales Engineer at Zebra Technologies

Ryan Spurr, Director of Manufacturing Strategy at Connection

You can hear us on Apple PodcastsAmazon MusicSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or Podbean

Show Notes:

[1:40] What are some creative use cases? Asset tracking can be used in so many ways to discover inefficiencies. It can be used to improve workplace safety, enhance employee productivity, identify manufacturing process improvements, and discover ways to get goods to customers faster.

[7:50] Employees are the most critical asset in the manufacturing space. How can location or asset tracking technologies keep them safe? The integration of asset tracking technologies can help identify process gaps or improvements. Let’s say an operator accesses a terminal, but for safety purposes, you want to make sure that specific operator is authorized to access that terminal. Or perhaps an employee needs to have the appropriate certification to be able to access a certain area in the warehouse. By using asset tracking, you can understand what additional safety training is needed or if processes need to change. And if there is a safety incident, asset tracking can help make sure employees have vacated a zone or building. 

[15:58] How can asset tracking help minimize other risks? Some industries have strict compliance with the materials or products used in their processes. For instance, if an adhesive used is expired or has a recall, asset tracking can help identify whether it is being used in production so that teams can adjust immediately. 

[25:30] What is your advice for those interested in asset or location tracking technologies? Start with practical applications that can deliver an immediate ROI. For most, that’s minimizing loss or wasteful practices or ensuring you’re meeting compliance requirements and passing audits. But the sky is the limit. There are so many ways asset tracking can bring value. The data can bring insight and even identify process gaps. 

[28:17] What are some new asset tracking features from Zebra? Zebra recently launched MotionWorks™ which is an asset management connector to ServiceNow. Manufacturers can turn data from tracking tags or sensor networks into real-time insights through a comprehensive dashboard with powerful reporting capabilities.

[32:30] What should manufacturers look for when it comes to asset tracking technologies? You want to think about whether RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) or RTLS (Real Time Location Systems) solutions will be the best fit for your organization. Integration with your existing technologies is also critical; OEMs and partners that have integration expertise would be ideal. In manufacturing, you also want to look for ruggedness. Employees are essential so picking an OEM that offers ergonomic and purposeful design can further enhance productivity and reduce fatigue. 

[35:15] What do you want the audience to take away from the podcast? Real-time location solutions have evolved. If you can’t measure or monitor your assets as they move through your warehouse, you can’t optimally manage your business. There are so many use cases. It’s best to start on opportunities that have an immediate ROI. Then use that to expand to other initiatives such as workflow processes, inventory usage, supply chain processes, and even IT Service Management (ITSM). Another thing to consider is that your first use case may not recoup the full upfront investment. The investment should be seen as a long-term goal. For more information about asset tracking solutions, visit connection.com/zebra or reach out to your Connection Account Manager.

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