Connection Community Official Technology Community of Connection Thu, 26 Jan 2023 13:32:00 +0000 hourly 1 Moving Patient Care from the Hospital to... Jan 26, 2023 Dr Keith Nelson

Attention Shoppers: Physical Exams in Aisle 7 . . .

There is a monumental transformation in the delivery of healthcare services occurring in the U.S. – moving non-critical patient care from traditional settings like hospitals and some physician offices to local retail sites and the home.  Recent examples of this evolution include Walmart’s built-from-scratch clinic initiative (Walmart Health) and a number of multibillion dollar healthcare provider acquisitions by large pharmacy organizations and insurers.

The primary drivers of this trend are lowering systemic costs and fostering patient convenience. And it seems like everyone’s joined the party – patients expect it, payers (including CMS) want it, and corporate disrupters are enthusiastically providing it.  The ultimate goal of these new corporate providers is similar – improve profitability through vertical integration, increased traffic and cross pollination with the core business offering(s) – but the approach of each varies.  Let’s look at some examples:

The aforementioned Walmart Health is a series of walk-in clinics attached to their retail stores that provide primary care, optometry and dental services with transparent pricing.  Although they built this model organically, they are receptive to acquisitions as is evidenced by their purchase of MeMD, a virtual care provider.

In contrast, other organizations are relying more upon the acquisition model. Here are some recent developments:

  • Amazon acquired PillPack (direct-to-consumer pharmacy) and One Medical (primary care)
  • Walgreens (pharmacy) acquired CareCentrix (home care) and VillageMD (primary care), which in turn bought Summit Medical/CityMD (primary and specialty care).
  • CVS acquired Signify Health (primary care) which adds to its home-grown Minute Clinic operation.

And then there’s the payers . . .

  • Optum (a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group that offers pharmacy, healthcare technology and physician services) acquired Atrius Health and the Kelsey Seybold Clinic (both primary and specialty care) among many others including LHC Group (in-home and hospice care) and Refresh (mental health).
  • Humana acquired Kindred (home care)

Note the common game plan – build a core of primary care services which in turn drive hospital admissions, prescriptions, supplies, testing and, most importantly, the lucrative delivery of specialty care. Of course, it couldn’t hurt to have ownership in each of these categories as well as complementary extensions like dialysis, wound care, hospice, behavioral health and visiting nurse services, all of which are on the corporate radar.

This vertical integration enables, among other things, a significant ability to control costs, which is critical in our inexorable evolution toward a value-based, risk-sharing health system. And the most impactful way to lower costs is to effectively manage patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease and cancer, which affect 50% of the population and consume more than 85% of healthcare expenditures. One way to do this is to have a continuous real-time view of each patient’s health status as they go through their daily lives which can be accomplished with the use of remote patient monitoring technology (wireless glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, weight scales, etc.) combined with regular intervention. This is particularly useful in managing the ballooning baby boomer long term care population (pardon the alliteration). Another interesting use of technology is the evolving trend to leverage a patient’s genomic data to facilitate personalized, and often preventive, medicine (note the acquisition of Lemonaid, an online telemedicine and pharmacy services platform, by 23andMe, a consumer genetics company).

To be clear, many of the providers whose organization has been acquired continue to see patients in their established locations, but the shift in ownership to a large corporation is usually accompanied by a commensurate change in service and/or charge structure (e.g. elevated prices, surprise facility fee, increased testing, etc.) as profit concerns take on more importance.

One more thing . . .
An additional noteworthy development related to patient care site redirection is the recent emergence of the hospital (not retail) - driven hospital-at-home phenomenon which enables some patients who need acute-level care to receive the care in their homes, rather than in a hospital. The payment to the hospital is the same as if the patient had been admitted, and the program expands the amount of available patient beds, and ostensibly reduces overall costs, improves outcomes, and enhances the patient experience.

Finally, it is important to bring attention to the concerns around privacy when it comes to corporations having access to patient data. HIPAA regulations prohibit the sharing of any protected health information (PHI) without the patient’s consent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the information can’t be used for internal marketing purposes “in order to better serve the patient.”  It’s indeed a slippery slope when you think about the fact that Visa and Mastercard know every doctor you’ve seen and their specialties (assuming you charged your copay or medical bill). So, it’s a brave new world. Similar to social media, I guess we’ll have to measure the benefits against both the known and unknown consequences.  In the interim, it seems we get the chance to shop and hopefully not drop.

What’s Next: Manufacturing Technology... Jan 24, 2023 Ryan Spurr

I recently read a book from McKinsey, The Titanium Economy, where the authors describe the value of the manufacturing trade on our economy and how thousands of lesser-known entities are constantly innovating, creating stakeholder value that rivals the largest tech firms in terms of performance and profitability. It struck a chord with me, as our Manufacturing Practice meets with and visits clients regularly, and our teams have observed precisely the same thing.

Many manufacturing companies have state-of-the-art facilities, a culture of continuous improvement and transformation, and are quietly innovating every day to make their organizations smarter, faster, and better—right here in America.

These companies are often contrary to public opinion—that of dingy old-world manufacturing—but are clean, modern, and buzzing with technology to bring competitive advantage. U.S. manufacturing is advanced and creates products the macro economy depends on for our future well-being—from health-related products, transportation, electronics, and even the future of sustainability and energy.

This transformation may be less flashy than most high-tech firms, but at the core is a constant goal to improve productivity, resilience, quality, and safety—contributing to organizations capable of producing the best products in the world. Every day, U.S. manufacturers are making it happen.

How can we help U.S. manufacturing do more? How can we help them adopt new and proven technologies that enable their innovation and business goals?

The industry's ability to invest in practical improvements to its value chain, including how people, processes, and tools work has made U.S. manufacturing so resilient. Unlike their flashy Silicon Valley peers, manufacturing’s quiet and relentless focus on continuous improvement initiatives delivers results that make the business more competitive, more profitable, and capable of scale. It’s the practical and incremental approach that creates sustained growth and value for the business, stakeholders, employees, and their communities.

With this in mind, this year’s 2023 manufacturing trends are focused on the practical investments we see our manufacturing clients making to improve their businesses, unshackle their employees, and create more resilient and innovative organizations.

Trend #1: Security

Nothing is more disruptive to the advancement and morale of an organization than the impact of cybersecurity events. Manufacturing has become the target of attackers creating havoc in IT and Operational Technology (OT), making it the #1 attacked industry. Perhaps more concerning, 61% of incidents against manufacturing are conducted against OT environments. Because of this rising threat to operations, manufacturing leaders rate financial and/or downtime resulting from cybersecurity events as their top concerns in the Connection Annual Manufacturing Security Survey, December 2022.

Perhaps more concerning is the impact to organizational risk and a manufacturer’s ability to obtain and retain cybersecurity insurance. In the same Connection Annual Manufacturing Security Survey, 65% of manufacturers have experienced challenges with cybersecurity insurance such as increasing premiums and difficulty meeting insurance compliance requirements. In fact, 18% of respondents said they were dropped by their insurance policies. In 2021, the average cost to remediate a cybersecurity event in the manufacturing industry was $4.7 million, and without access to cybersecurity insurance, manufacturers will be stuck with the impact and bill.

With cybersecurity risks so apparent, especially in OT environments, we see a trend of investment into policies and technologies to help minimize cybersecurity incidents. These include enhancing access control to simplify and support the way industrials work, employee training, native industrial security monitoring at the network and appliance level, zero trust infrastructure, and integration of OT monitoring with Corporate IT SIEM and SOC to provide the ability to mitigate some of the most common breach attack vectors and reduce the breach lifecycle to minimize impact, downtime, and overall cost of a successful cybersecurity attack.

Trend #2: Rethinking Industrial Workforce and Edge Devices

80% of industrial workers don’t sit at a desk. Think about that as you plan that next factory, warehouse, or maintenance workforce upgrade, or if you’re deploying work instructions, on-the-job training, or workflow solutions in any of these environments. Today’s industrial workers want to use end-point devices that match their work style, environment, provide access to the latest digital tools, and optimize how they make it happen.

Those manufacturers we work with that invest in modern industrial workforce solutions see significant productivity, knowledge capture, and improved compliance through the use of the right-fitting solutions. Each manufacturing company and industry are unique, but this can include the adoption of tablets, wearables, augmented reality, touchscreens, and products designed to support how workers work. In addition to the people and process, many of these devices also need to comply with industry standards, regulations, and the rigors of harsh environments.

Unfortunately, 89% of buying decisions related to this workforce are still made from the top down. Keep this in mind. Investing in your people and providing them with the right tools will help make workers more productive, support talent acquisition and retention, and set the groundwork for multiple phases of digital innovation.

Trend #3: Automate Non-Value-Added Tasks with IoT Sensors and Automation Platforms

In today’s modern factories and warehouses, optimizing the workforce you have is critical. This means eliminating the need for mundane and non-value-added tasks like collecting measurements about the environment, screens, meters, or other data points that could easily be automated by sensors or automated data collection. Furthermore, as the industry faces labor shortages and turnover, existing processes can break down, impacting compliance or an organization’s ability to collect the data to inform the overall value stream.

In these situations, manufacturers are implementing industrial IoT sensors and IoT software platforms that make it easy to connect, integrate, and automate with sensors, programmable logic controllers, building management equipment, or disparate systems. Businesses that successfully go on this journey are more connected, able to produce better insight, integrate with suppliers, improve customer experience, and create a more resilient business.

Trend #4: Leveraging Cloud to Go Fast and Innovate

Cloud is an area that gets a lot of attention these days. Are we talking about Co-Location, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, or all of it? The short answer is that it depends on what your business seeks to accomplish.

Many of our manufacturing clients move to the cloud to transition everyday low-business value capabilities to shed on-premises tech estate, limit the drain on their overworked IT resources, or deliver more unified infrastructure. This is widespread for security and federated identity management, databases, or everyday productivity tools we now have come to depend upon, like Microsoft Office 365.

Other manufacturers are looking to radically transform business processes, speed access to the latest features, APIs, and security, or perhaps unleash their research, design, and engineers with access to cutting-edge platforms that allow them to integrate factories, automate, implement Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, or create entirely new revenue streams with smart, connected products to enhance customer experience with new services.

It’s essential to understand your business goals, where you seek to innovate, and then tailor the strategy to include the proper infrastructure and cloud offerings to match. When done properly, hybrid cloud is quickly enabling organizations to shed tech estate, accelerate innovation, and focus on their business’s core to support their growth, productivity, and profitability goals.

Trend #5: AI and Machine Vision

Before, during, and after the pandemic, manufacturers have struggled to attract and retain a skilled workforce that keeps pace with the growth. This leaves manufacturing leaders with a choice. How do they staff their growing business? How do they retain and invest in the employees who remain? And what do we do with the monotonous tasks that humans are least good at (or perhaps most error-prone with fatigue and complacency)?

This is where AI and Machine Vision solutions fit best. Machine Vision solutions have been used in manufacturing for a long time—it’s not new. Just look to automated optical inspection machines seen in many industries. These high-cost, high-complexity, and niche solutions do one and only one thing well. Ask those solutions to detect adjacent quality issues, deviations from multiple process points, or workplace safety events, and you will quickly find no transferable solution. Or is there?

The answer is yes. Machine Vision platforms, cameras, and cloud solutions have come a long way. Today, it’s conceivable to identify a top-impacting quality or safety challenge with clear cost impacts, and within one month, have a viable Machine Vision model in production. That same investment in infrastructure can then be used in phase 2, 3, and 4, allowing you to solve one problem and move on to another, creating compounding business value over time, implementing automated corrective actions not dependent upon people, and allowing your vital people resources to work on higher value and more creative problems to help the business grow.

AI and Machine Vision are no longer a dream—they are a reality—and used by manufacturers today to solve a wide range of everyday challenges. Those organizations that invest, conduct pilots with partners, and incrementally deploy Machine Vision use cases will see cost savings, be able to scale, and create differentiation to outcompete in the marketplace.

Let’s Make It Happen

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 through the application of enabling technologies.

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 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.

8 Digital Transformation Resolutions You... Jan 24, 2023 Connection

A new year brings new technology resolutions. While it goes by many names, like upgrading infrastructure or improving operations, digital transformation remains a high priority. Following are eight resolutions—and the trends behind them—to help guide your digital transformation initiatives in 2023.

Digital Transformation Definition

Digital transformation is not simply infrastructure changes; instead, digital transformation applies the tools of technology to enhance or build new business processes, culture, and customer experiences. It’s about revisiting business strategies to ensure competitive advantage and capacity for delivering maximum value to customers using current and emerging technology.

Additionally, digital transformation is about reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions for sustainability. In technology, sustainability is about more efficient operational resources. Data centers and server farms account for 1 to 1.5 percent of all energy consumption globally.1

Digital transformation also addresses the need to build what Gartner calls a “digital immune system.”2 A strong digital immune system addresses potential—and increasing—cybersecurity threats, site reliability engineering (SRE), and autoremediation, among other things.

The “Why” of Digital Transformation

In any modern organization, digital transformation is imperative. Evolving from traditional to modern environments requires that organizations adapt to meet dynamic market trends, emerging tools and techniques, and customer needs.

Customer satisfaction ultimately defines the success of business outcomes. Accordingly, successful companies value their users and their users’ experience with their brand. People have many choices today and, so, tend to choose companies that respect their wants and needs. Digital transformation ensures companies remain connected to—and well serve—their audiences.

In a new work-anywhere world, digital transformation also encompasses internal interactions, such as employee communication and collaboration. Regardless of business model or company size, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing efficient communications, workflows, and deliverables. Technology helps align team members for productivity and reduce their potential for human error. The bottom line is that any business relies on its people; by facilitating productivity, collaboration, and connection between workers anywhere in the world, organizations and their customers benefit.

To further confirm why digital transformation matters, recent statistics show that:

  • 89 percent of enterprises are planning to adopt or have already adopted a digital business strategy3
  • 70 percent of organizations have a digital transformation strategy or are working on one3
  • The implementation of digital technologies can help accelerate progress toward enterprise goals such as financial returns, workforce diversity, and environmental targets by 22 percent3

Essentially, digital transformation ensures your organization remains relevant in a business environment where others are adopting such initiatives.

8 Digital Transformation Resolutions for 2023

1: Create a plan to deal with the datafication of everything.

Datafication, the process of transforming human tasks into data-driven software applications and devices, is changing daily life. In this time where personal data is currency, smartphones, smart homes, and smart offices are powered by AI that is fueled by data to produce even more data. Effectively and efficiently capturing, monitoring, using, and protecting data in today’s economy is a ubiquitous core demand for every organization.

2: Support hybrid workers in a more flexible and streamlined way.

Workers now have a flexible working style in terms of full- or part-time hours, geographic location, and environment. This hybrid work culture is a product of digital transformation at a global level because of the pandemic. Transformation efforts are now beyond no-code and low-code technologies to replace manual work with automation; today’s focus is about tackling peak productivity and ensuring workers are connected to their organizations and team members. That means employees need the right hardware, with the right apps, with data security to maintain their responsibilities to optimize the connection between technology and their performance.

Many CIOs have taken steps toward app modernization and public cloud migration. Using cloud solutions supports data-intensive workloads, like AI solutions for data analysis and edge computing, as well as universal app access for remote workers.

3: Explore how AI, machine learning, advanced analytics, and telemetry can make your business smarter.

AI is making our world smarter, smoother, and hassle free. Having the capability to run AI is a key part of today’s systems architecture. AI can automate routine tasks, leaving higher-thinking decisions to employees. Elevating analytics to advanced forms of data insight supports data-driven business decisions. This informs customer experience, workflow process, and product development and marketing. Using predictive modeling, AI can contribute to business intelligence (BI) that makes it easier to explore new and informed approaches and strategies. Competitive advantage goes to organizations that can access and understand large data sets, such as information from the intelligent edge and unstructured forms of data.

Telemetry is a term for technologies that collect information as measurements or statistics, which is then shared with remote IT systems for troubleshooting problems and informing data center operations. Incorporating telemetry data, AI, machine learning, and big data analytics capabilities gives organizations insights that can support intelligent decisions.

4: Improve compute power and efficiency using sustainability practices.

Nearly every device and appliance are now computerized, with the associated infrastructure continuously evolving. In terms of networks, the seemingly new 5G is quickly spawning an even newer era of 6G, with more power in our hands through devices. Additionally, with increasingly complex and data-intensive workloads, it becomes important to be as efficient as possible for performance, budget, and the environment—in terms of sustainability. Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, including accelerator technologies, can help make the most of the architecture you have now to meet these goals today and as you expand in the future.

5: Explore extended reality.

Extended reality (XR) comprises technologies that simulate reality, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). This significant technology trend shows that customers are looking for a break from real-world boundaries. The technology to create a reality without tangible presence is highly desirable for media developers, product designers, medical specialists, retail experts, and modeling professionals. It’s not just for gamers anymore.

6: Get a robust assessment and testing plan for zero trust cybersecurity.

People today are familiar with—and trust—digital technologies, believing that technology can reliably create a safe, secure digital world. This digital trust is leading to more innovation as companies feel confident in inventing and innovating without jeopardizing public sentiment.

At the same time, more technologies increase potential attack surfaces and risk exposure. An emerging strategy for organizations focusing on cybersecurity is zero trust, which means taking a proactive and pervasive approach to system security. Essentially, default operations are set to trust no one, whether inside or outside the network; verification is required for all access to network resources. Working toward a zero trust environment means regularly assessing, testing, and upgrading your cybersecurity up and down the stack.

7: Optimize your cloud infrastructure.

Cloud computing is a former trend gone mainstream, with more businesses migrating to cloud solutions. The emerging trend within cloud computing is edge computing. Edge computing processes data closer to where it is generated—at “the edge”— to reduce latency and increase access to data for insights. This also makes access to applications and software more efficient for remote staff. Ensuring your cloud instances are provisioned correctly supports bottom-line budgeting and optimized performance.

8: Improve performance for networks and edge computing resources.

As the quantity of data organizations capture increases, some circumstances have surfaced for latency in cloud computing, specifically in getting information from applications in the cloud and in getting data to a data center for processing. As a result, edge computing has emerged to process data closer to where it’s generated—at the edge. One use for edge computing is to process time-sensitive data to a centralized location from remote locations that have limited, inconsistent, or even no connectivity.

The pace of business has accelerated dramatically, and it demands more from your organization’s IT infrastructure. Maintaining legacy data centers unfit for the task can monopolize your IT team’s bandwidth, leaving them unable to support strategic goals. This is why 85 percent of organizations are pursuing a data center modernization strategy. Connection’s Data Center Transformation specialists have spent decades focused on understanding the data center needs of organizations.

1. George Kamiya, “Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks,” IEA, September 2022,

2. Lori Perri, “What Is a Digital Immune System and Why Does It Matter?,” Gartner, October 25, 2022,

3. “72 Vital Digital Transformation Statistics: 2022 Spending, Adoption, Analysis & Data,” Finances Online, November 7, 2022,

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.

No product or component can be absolutely secure.

Your costs and results may vary. © Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Connection Cares: We Make It Happen for Our... Jan 19, 2023 Connection

CNXN Live 2023 was an amazing event that brought together Connection employees, partners, and clients from across the nation. The annual company kickoff event was hosted in West Palm Beach, FL and Manchester, NH, as well as virtually for remote employees.

Connection Cares made it easy for CNXN Live attendees to give back to their communities, organizing several activities as part of the event. The theme for the event was “Make It Happen,” and we certainly did with the generous help of the participants and organizations!

Connection Cares partnered with the J. C. Mitchell Elementary School in Boca Raton, FL on a book drive. Attendees were able to bring in new or gently used books to the event or donate by ordering a new book through Scholastic’s online portal. The donation drive collected 199 books, which will be placed in a school vending machine. Students will have the opportunity to choose a book each semester as a reward for good behavior. After they've finished reading their book, students can either keep it for their home library or donate it back to the school.

Employees and partners also came together to donate non-perishable food items to the New Hampshire Food Bank in-person and virtually. The food drive was a great success! The generous donations from attendees will help many local families. Many thanks to the participants for the incredible support. You can learn more about our Connection Cares initiatives online or contact us at

Custom IT Configurations for Remote... Jan 04, 2023 Connection

You need turnkey technology that just works out of the box. It needs to integrate into your existing infrastructure, workflows, and processes. Connection delivers custom integration services on your schedule through its Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC), a world-class configuration and distribution facility. 

The state-of-the-art integration lab covers more than 50,000 square feet, with over 2,000 live connections and 50 GB fiber-optic lines. Over the course of a year, the TIDC’s ISO 9001:2015–certified configuration lab delivers more than 550,000 custom configurations. Equipped with the latest technologies and powered by industry-leading methodologies, the TIDC completes even the largest custom configuration orders to exact specifications.

Technicians maintain extensive certifications and authorizations from all major manufacturers, with more than 90 percent of the team holding one or more CompTIA certifications. The team is current on industry developments and on advances in partner technologies and best practices. 

Custom Integrations that Simplify Your Technology Lifecycle

This combination of high tech with high touch means you can easily optimize your end-user experience with custom configuration services, convenient deployment options, and advanced inventory planning and rollout management.

Connection’s configuration, inventory, and asset management services include:

Provisioning and imagingVPN-based provisioningDeployment hosting
Mobile provisioningConcierge configuration services for Google and Microsoft (Autopilot and ZTE)Jamf services
Location-in-a-BoxAsset tagging and data captureKitting/reverse kit solutions
Laser engravingInventory planning and rolloutInstructions document/printing insertion service

A significant IT configuration service that many enterprises are now taking advantage of is remote management.

Why IT Staff Need Remote Management 

Today’s employees are increasingly mobile in both geographic location and working environment. And yet, IT teams need to be able to support those employees and their compute devices no matter where the device is located, including outside the corporate firewall and in the cloud. In today’s chaotic economic environment, it is not feasible in time or fuel costs to deploy an IT technician to be on-site, or even to ship devices to and from the IT team. Potentially more significant is the residual carbon footprint generated from such actions.

Beyond troubleshooting passwords and systems access, other IT challenges can include a nonresponsive operating system (OS); critical firmware, software, or security updates; or system patches for remote devices. For business continuity, IT staff need flexibility to schedule such updates outside of productive business hours. It’s just as important to have an efficient, integrated solution as well as a centralized view of organizational devices, including hardware components and technical documentation.

Meet Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT)

Intel vPro® Enterprise1 for Windows OS gives PCs the power business requires to help improve productivity through enhanced performance and strengthen data security, as well as give greater fleet management control. Research suggests a potential benefit of Intel vPro® is that employees work more effectively with less downtime. Because of the benefits of quicker IT response times, easier issue resolution, and other productivity improvements, employees can save up to two hours per month when using Intel vPro platform-based devices.2

Intel vPro features the modern manageability tools of Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT)3 built into the system. The modern manageability tools that come with Intel vPro Enterprise provide remote access to intelligent devices, such as smart vending machines, remote/digital billboards, or software hubs in conference rooms.

Within Intel vPro, Intel AMT enables IT teams to remotely power devices or multiple systems across every worksite, powered on or off, as well as troubleshoot endpoints with keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) functions. IT staff can set wake-up times and schedule updates to ensure maintenance happens as well as conserve resource consumption when devices are unattended or not in use.

Intel AMT streamlines device administration. Intel AMT is, essentially, a direct-connect to the end user and their device. With Intel AMT, you can connect remotely to a PC even when it is off or the OS2 is down. Intel AMT is the only commercial remote remediation solution to return a PC to a known good state, no matter where employees are working. And it’s the only commercial solution for remote out-of-band manageability over Wi-Fi.2

Hardware-based Intel AMT provides persistent out-of-band connectivity that operates independently of the OS, allowing fixes to a wider range of system issues. Repair corrupted drivers, application software, or the OS on nonresponsive systems that won’t run or boot.

Intel AMT also gives tools to help onboard and problem-shoot new users as well as customized software and applications. The TIDC can get a device user-ready, packaged, and shipped quickly to meet organizational IT goals. Altogether, Intel AMT is the built-in solution that empowers comprehensive remote manageability for IT organizations to help keep business running smoothly. And the TIDC is the only authorized provider that can configure and activate Intel AMT on devices ready for deployment. Learn more about TIDC or contact the team to explore custom configuration services for your next deployment.

Download this short paper to learn more about Intel® Active Management Technology

1. All versions of the Intel vPro® platform require an eligible Intel® Core™ processor, a supported operating system, Intel® LAN and/or WLAN silicon, firmware enhancements, and other hardware and software necessary to deliver the manageability use cases, security features, system performance, and stability that define the platform. See for details.
2. Forrester, “The Total Economic Impact™ Of The Intel vPro® Platform,” January 2021,
3. Requires activation and a system with a corporate network connection, an Intel® AMT-enabled chipset, network hardware, and software. For notebooks, Intel® AMT may be unavailable or limited over a host OS-based VPN when connecting wirelessly, on battery power, sleeping, hibernating, or powered off. Results dependent upon hardware, setup, and configuration. For more information, visit
Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.
No product or component can be absolutely secure.
Your costs and results may vary.
© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

TechSperience Episode 116: How Artificial... Dec 21, 2022 Connection

Retailers can reduce shrinkage, diminish stockout, and enhance experiences for customers and employees with artificial Intelligence (AI). But that is just scratching the surface. AI-enabled intelligent stores can optimize so much more like managing staffing resources, reaching sustainability goals, and even predicting customers’ needs.

This podcast explores how AI solutions – a combination of data management, connectivity, edge computing devices, and software – can create powerful results. Experts from NVIDIA, Lenovo, and Connection cover real-world examples of how retailers are getting their return on investment and what strategies have been successful to reaching strong business outcomes.   

Host: James Hilliard


  • Cynthia Countouris, Director of Product Marketing & Enablement for Retail, NVIDIA
  • Matthew Bertucci, Retail Solutions Manager, Lenovo
  • Brian Gallagher, Retail Strategy Director, Connection

You can hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or Podbean

Show Notes:

[0:58] Are retail employees worried about AI replacing them or is it seen as a helpful tool? Anything new is typically seen as a potential threat. AI can enhance productivity and let employees focus on meaningful activities such as helping customers rather than checking inventory in the aisles. Retailers can alleviate these fears by demonstrating how AI can help reduce redundant tasks and enhance employees’ productivity.  Showcasing how AI can be leveraged in flagship stores and providing videos and documentation can alleviate concerns while demonstrating the value it can bring.

[7:25] How can technologies enhance productivity? Camera vision or computer vision can help drive action by sending alerts or display information on digital signage. Integrating AI into these technologies can further automate and optimize the employee experience. For instance, AI can help advance the process of restocking inventory on shelves rather than having employees physically roam the aisles. Another example is streamlining the checkout process by displaying the estimated wait time for each line so customers can gauge which line to wait in. This also eliminates the need for an employee to moderate the lines or running the risk of one employee being inundated and another that isn’t.

[10:20] How can retailers make sure they can process data in real-time? First step is to understand the goals and what information is essential. Stockout doesn’t have to be in real-time, but loss prevention does. Retailers need to make sure they have the right edge compute power, technologies, and partners to develop the solution. Factors include volume of data points, analytics, and AI technologies as well as the size of the store and anticipated growth.

[12:25] What can retailers do to justify investments in AI? Kroger’s approach is a great example. NVIDIA and Lenovo worked with Kroger on their first foray into AI. To capture a quick return on investment, we focused on loss prevention and developed a proof of concept. It’s quicker to justify or recoup the investment by focusing on loss prevention. The concept was a success. From there, we used AI in other ways.

[13:40] Can you share more about how AI can help in loss prevention? Kroger found that a large portion of loss prevention was not intentional. For instance, customers accidently not scanning something at self-checkout. Having an AI-generated reminder on the screen is a much more comfortable experience rather than having an associate confront a customer.

[16:17] What about loss prevention as an internal issue? How can AI help here? It comes down to the approach. For instance, quick serve restaurants can set business rules on serving sizes. This can be reiterated through training. There are also opportunities for gamification by encouraging positive behaviors. Internal loss can be attributed to sustainability and making sure organizations are maximizing their resources and meeting goals by measuring waste and energy consumption. Internal loss could be related to spoiled products too. Kroger is exploring computer vision to monitor freshness of their products, for instance, automating when produce should be spritzed with water.

[21:30] How can AI help drive sales and promotion? AI lets businesses think in a non-linear fashion. And connecting AI with data analytics and camera vision enables customization at the store-level rather than a mass assumption of what will sell, when, and where.

[26:00] How can AI help with staffing plans? AI can be powerful by tracking or predicting needs based on upcoming events, weather changes, season, or time of day. It can also forecast products. AI can help connect customers to employees by alerting associates when someone is looking for something.

[29:43] Are most retailers’ infrastructure ready for AI? Infrastructure upgrades is typically needed. AI requires a substantial amount of internet connectivity. Retailers also need to have the capability to secure and protect all the edge points. This is where partners can come together to help provide the roadmap to implementing AI.

[31:57] Are there AI use cases that other retailers could turn to for ideas? Early adopters of AI include mass merchants, quick serve restaurants, and grocery stores. Many of them started small by identifying opportunities that have a clear ROI and an easy way to measure outcomes. Once there’s proof, use this experience as a steppingstone to think about AI in a broader way.

[36:50] What are some real-world savings retailers are seeing with AI? Shrinkage is a $100 billion problem for retailers. Addressing even a 30% decrease would result in huge savings. Mid-market retailers can likely see a return on investment on hardware costs within three months. It’s a clear win. Stockout is a 4% loss for retailers which can be recouped with AI.

Visit Connection’s booth at NRF 2023 or learn more about AI at

Deliver Technologies to Improve End-user... Dec 15, 2022 Sreeraj Vasukuttan

“My laptop did not arrive in time. My Outlook was not configured correctly. The company phone did not sync with Teams and Office 365. My laptop sometimes gets kicked off the Wi-Fi network. I wish I had an extra monitor—a 14-inch laptop screen is too limiting. I didn’t receive a Bluetooth headset, so I used my personal headset that I purchased from Amazon. Having these challenges my first week made me question my longevity at the organization.”

This was feedback from a friend of mine when I asked how her onboarding process went at her new job. Stories like these are now commonplace among new employees in the post-pandemic era. Many IT teams are struggling with the procurement, deployment, and support needs of their transitioning workforce.

While companies put a lot of time and resources into hiring top talent, there is a need for more alignment between Human Resources and IT departments to provide new employees with a welcoming experience. After all, retaining talent is as important as winning them.

In a recent Forrester survey, over 42% of decision-makers agree that employee retention is a critical priority driving the need for improving Digital Employee Experience (DEX). IT procurement, deployment, and support functions in your organization all play a significant role in shaping end-user satisfaction. Here are a few factors to consider as you prepare IT department plans for 2023.

User Needs Vary Based on Work Location

The idea that remote employees and offices may need different equipment is a no-brainer. But do you know how different their equipment needs are?  A home office would need unique configurations for each employee based on their setup needs and preferences. For example, some of your employees may need noise-canceling work headsets, while some may have access to a quiet workspace where a standard headset is appropriate. Similarly, some employees may prefer to work with a single monitor while others may need a dual monitor setup to be productive. The equipment needs of a hybrid employee may be even more complex as they require technologies to address both the office and home workspaces.

User Needs Vary Based on Role Types and Specializations

It’s vital for IT to understand various job functions to provide optimal technologies. And within those functions, there are specializations that ladder up to differences in equipment needs. If you’re in an industry organization—such as manufacturing or healthcare—you may be more familiar with supporting your specialist professionals. However, the hardware, software, and support needed for each could vary based on their specific function. For example, data analysts may require an additional screen to be effective in their role, but the form factor of that extra monitor may vary depending on the nuanced differences between their specialized roles.

User Needs Go Beyond the Functional

Your users also have needs or wants that extend beyond functionality. Employees expect their work equipment to fulfill them emotionally, just as we expect our personal devices and gadgets to fulfill our aesthetic and other needs. The higher-order value goes further than aesthetics. I would argue that devices, accessories, and operating systems that are designed with user experience in mind can provide a certain level of therapeutic value in an otherwise intense work environment. Similarly, security and privacy software can help reduce anxiety. When you create your procurement plan for devices, accessories, and software, make sure you consider the emotional value factor as well.

Inclusivity Is Key

When you choose devices, accessories, software, and services, it’s also important to understand your workforce through an inclusivity lens. Are you considering that some of your employees may be differently abled or may have a disability that calls for a unique work setup? Manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of these factors, and there are types of equipment that have higher accessibility ratings. Inclusivity can be seen in broader ways too. For example, a remote hire could be in an area without strong broadband connections. Providing a device that supports LTE could help this employee tremendously.

Check out our eBook for more tips on how to plan for IT procurement and deployment for your organization.

Simplify IT Procurement and Deployment eBook
Clarifying Microsoft Lifecycle Policies as... Dec 15, 2022 Makayla Mota

You may have seen that several Microsoft products are ending support in 2023, but what does that really mean? And what do you need to do to support your organization? First, let’s determine what “end of support” means. When Microsoft moves a product to end of support, or retires the service, it will no longer be updated with both security and non-security updates. Customers will be urged to migrate to the latest version of the product or service. Most Microsoft products and services follow a Fixed or Modern Lifecycle Policy. Let’s break down and demystify the differences between a Fixed and Modern Lifecycle Policy.

Fixed Lifecyle Policy

A Fixed Lifecycle Policy applies to a product that is either commercial or consumer and available through retail purchase and/or volume licensing. A Fixed Lifecycle Policy is just that—the lifecyle of the product has a fixed or defined support and services lifecycle from the time of launch. This entails a minimum of five years of Mainstream Support and an additional period (for some products) of Extended Support.
So, what are the differences between Mainstream and Extended Support? I am glad you asked. Mainstream Support is the first phase of support and includes incident support, security update support, and the ability to request non-security updates. Extended Support follows Mainstream Support and includes paid support and free security updates.

Another thing you may notice for products on a Fixed Lifecycle Policy is that the customer may be asked to deploy the latest Service Pack or update. A Service Pack is when Microsoft releases a combination of fixes and updates for recognized issues available in a single installation. Microsoft provides 12 or 24 months of support for the previous Service Pack when a new Service Pack is released, but when a Service Pack ends, no new security updates or other non-security updates will be available for that Service Pack. Customers are encouraged to stay on a fully supported Service Pack.

Modern Lifecycle Policy

A product or service under the Modern Lifecyle Policy will be serviced and supported continuously. The product or service will remain in support if the customer stays current per service and system requirements, customers are licensed to use the product or service, and Microsoft currently offers support for the product or service. Under this policy, the products and services are more likely to have change notifications, and Microsoft will alert customers a minimum of 30 days in advance if they need to take action.

Microsoft also has more information about product and services lifecycles.

What Are Some of the Products that Will Be Affected in 2023?

Windows 7

Windows 7 will reach its third year of Extended Security Support on January 10, 2023. What does this mean? Well, if you are still using Windows 7, you will need to upgrade. Microsoft recommends migrating to Windows 11 to avoid needing service or support that is no longer available. If your current device is not able to run Windows 11, Microsoft recommends upgrading your device or migrating to Windows 10 (while also keeping in mind that Windows 10 will reach end of support on October 14, 2025).

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 will end support on January 10, 2023, and Extended Security Updates (ESU) will not be available. Microsoft 365 apps will no longer be supported on Windows 8.1, as it will no longer meet the requirements. Microsoft recommends that customers update devices to a more current operating system like Windows 11 or Windows 10. If your devices do not meet the requirements to run a more current version of Windows, Microsoft advises replacing the devices with those that support Windows 11.

Microsoft Office 2013

I previously wrote about the April 11, 2023, end of support date for Office 2013. If you are still running Office 2013, you will need to upgrade. Your Connection Account Team can help you to determine the best upgrade option for your organization:

  • Microsoft 365 Apps: The subscription version of Office that comes with many Microsoft 365 enterprise and business plans
  • Office LTSC 2021: Sold as a one-time purchase, through a volume license agreement and available for one computer per license
  • Office 2021: Available through traditional volume licensing programs with Software Assurance

SQL Server 2008

On July 11, 2023, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 will reach the end of its Extended Security Update. Customers are advised to migrate their digital estate to Azure SQL. Azure SQL can be serverless with no VM and uses the same engine as SQL on-premises. It expands from tables to Graph, JSON, and XML, making the transition smooth and seamless.

Now is the time to put a plan in place for your products that are approaching end of support. Still have questions or want to create a timeline? Reach out to your Connection Account Team for more information.

TechSperience Episode 115: Next-Gen Endpoint... Dec 14, 2022 Connection

The healthcare industry is seeing tremendous change. With the pandemic, staffing shortages, and a backlog of patients needing care, now is the time to reset and question traditional approaches. Add in the pressure of data protection and compliance, supporting remote working environments, and providing telehealth services – finding the right technologies and endpoint security solutions is essential to the future of healthcare.

In this podcast, the experts at IGEL discuss how the next-gen edge OS for cloud workspaces is advancing user productivity, patient care, and security while simplifying endpoint management for healthcare enterprises everywhere.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Chris Feeney, Sr. Presales Engineer, Channel & Team Lead at IGEL
  • Carl Gersh, VP of Marketing – North America at IGEL

You can hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, Google Podcasts, or Podbean

Show Notes:

[2:45] How has the pandemic impacted the healthcare industry? Innovation in healthcare started in 2008/2009 when the HITECH Act gave the industry incentives to move to electronic medical records. The popularity of going to the cloud spiked in 2020 as collaboration tools, remote work, and the need to upgrade machines rose significantly due to the pandemic.  

[6:34] Many healthcare teams struggle with deciding on the best approach for data storage: on-premise, cloud, or hybrid. What is your advice? We often speak to this as “inside the wall” where IT teams have more control over the data and access. Then there’s “outside the wall” which may open you up to more risks and vulnerabilities. But let’s remove the concept of the wall entirely. Security should be in place no matter where the users are or where the data is. This is the mindset we should all have in today’s digital environment.

[10:05] It took a global pandemic for many of us to shift to the cloud. What’s next? The technologies and capabilities have been around. The lack of awareness and getting executive approvals are the reasons why adoption has been slow moving across many industries. Cloud solutions have been around for 20 years. For healthcare, streamlining identity authentication and management, enhancing the user experience so clinicians can access the data and apps quickly, and improving patient care are major focus areas.

[14:20] We’re at a point in time where there’s a need for a great reset. What should teams consider as we go into the new year? In 2023, teams should question whether a fat or thick client OS is even needed for endpoint management. Instead, consider how to manage and scale your environments while being mindful of user experience. Some organizations may have or want to do both; thick clients for power users and thin clients for standard users, but you should also question whether this modality is necessary. For instance, consider Netflix. You don’t need a Netflix “box”, instead Netflix is seen as a service, and you can pick any device to use it. Think about your OS in the same way.

[18:30] So for those users that still want a workstation, what do you suggest as the right solution? Thin clients may be easier to manage but it won’t be enough for power users. With the rise of cloud computing, IGEL is focused on the “fit client” OS. In other words, we focus on delivering the right fit based on users’ needs.

[24:08] What are the benefits of IGEL OS? It’s no surprise that IT teams are always trying to do more with less or not enough. Many customers need to repurpose devices, extend the lives of those devices, and reduce e-waste. IGEL OS offers reliable performance that’s flexible and secure. We work with many vendors and partners like Citrix, Microsoft Azure, VMware, AWS and 120+ others to deliver a seamless experience.

[28:08] Describe the user experience when IGEL OS is first deployed. Once your device is on, the user is in their virtual session. The experience is seamless and doesn’t entail waiting and logging into various systems. If teams need to switch cloud service providers, IT can change that from the administrative side. The interface to the user will be the same. They would never know of the change.

[31:50] What are some nuances that IGEL OS has considered for the healthcare industry? IGEL works closely with Imprivata to deliver an integrated healthcare solution. Identity authentication is critical in the healthcare space so IGEL OS is activated when a clinician comes in and uses their badge for tap-and-go access. There are no passwords to slowdown clinicians, but the data is still secure.This user experience allows healthcare professionals to be more efficient so they can focus on patient care.

Contact your Account Manager at Connection or visit where you can sign-up for a free trial.

Simplifying Instant App Access for Healthcare Users

Simplifying Instant App Access for Healthcare Users

For healthcare IT organizations, offering clinicians instant, but secure access to key clinical apps and patient medical records is not an option—it’s a requirement that cannot be compromised. Read More

Microsoft and Citrix: A Dynamic Duo for Your... Dec 14, 2022 Makayla Mota

Azure Cloud Migration

As we go into 2023, hybrid work is no longer the new normal, it is simply the normal. IT departments at organizations around the world have continued to come up with innovative ways to provide workers with access to everything they need to do their jobs from anywhere, and the demand for migrating to the cloud has never been more prevalent. 

The Microsoft Azure portal—connected to Citrix digital workspaces—is the ideal solution for cloud migration and is a more seamless experience than you think! By working with you to understand your business goals and cloud readiness, Connection offers end-to-end Azure migration to bring all your business apps and data into one secure, unified cloud workspace. Connection cloud experts will configure your new Azure environment with monitoring, backups, and disaster recovery—allowing your investment to meet and exceed your remote workforce and IT goals. Want to test drive the latest innovation designed by Microsoft and Citrix? Our experts are prepared to strategize, plan, and deploy a proof-of-concept environment for you to explore Citrix virtual workloads in Azure. 

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) enables you to deploy modern and legacy Citrix desktop app experiences from within the Microsoft Azure portal, making it the perfectly unified solution for supporting the hybrid workforce. By consolidating legacy sites into one, single point of entry, users can work uninterrupted with secure access to any desktop and application—from devices in any location. AVD supplies best-in-class integrations and optimizations for productivity apps your employees use every day.

The benefits of migrating to Azure Virtual Desktop, include the ability to:

  • Migrate existing Windows apps to gain cloud scale, security, and agility
  • Access any apps from any device, from virtually anywhere
  • Reduce the complexity to run traditional SaaS (Software as a Service) infrastructure

Microsoft and Citrix: An Ideal Partnership

Industry leaders, Microsoft and Citrix have spent decades creating innovative solutions to empower organizations—but the past few years have been vastly different. Producing ways to drive efficiency and enable collaboration as the very thought of work completely changed has been a time of creative thinking, innovation, and partnership. Running Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop Service with Azure workloads allows organizations to create scalable and modern workspaces that go far beyond standard remote work environments. 

When deployed together, Citrix and Microsoft accelerate your ability to sustain hybrid workers everywhere, driving a work environment that is compliant, secure, and fully optimized for better performance. AVD allows your IT team to support the demands of remote workers and encourage collaboration with a truly seamless and uninterrupted user experience. Whether you are seeking improved collaboration tools for employees or simplifying virtual desktop delivery, AVD on Azure is a cost-efficient way to improve on your current investment and prepare your organization with optimal business outcomes.

The future of work is here, but are you prepared? Microsoft and Citrix continue to creatively drive innovation, enabling organizations across the globe to accelerate their cloud journey.

Connection offers cloud managed services along with AVD to ensure you are fully supported as you transition your data and workloads to the cloud. To learn more, reach out to your Account Team today.

Simplifying Instant App Access for... Dec 09, 2022 Dan O'Farrell

No industry is more dependent on rapid, decisive action than healthcare. From initial patient check-in to after-care outpatient treatment, delays or wasted time in any form can create severe impacts on patient outcomes and their ongoing health. For healthcare IT organizations, offering clinicians instant, but secure access to key clinical apps and patient medical records is not an option—it’s a requirement that cannot be compromised.

Importance of Instant App Access

Whether in a local neighborhood urgent care center or across a large regional network of hospitals, healthcare IT must offer clinicians, physicians, and nurses the ability to access the needed tools and information quickly and easily to do their jobs as effectively as possible. Administrative and operations staff must also be as efficient as possible to minimize patient wait times and, more recently, have secure access to the systems from home. In addition, all healthcare facilities must maintain compliance with patient confidentiality and data storage and retention requirements such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI to name just a few. This compliance includes protecting data and healthcare employees from security threats such as ransomware.

Provide Better Patient Care

The IGEL operating system runs on clinical endpoint devices in thousands of hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world. Fast, lean, and secure, IGEL OS enables existing and future endpoint devices to operate at peak performance and can be found in healthcare environments running any of the popular electronic health records (EHR) apps including Cerner, Epic, Allscripts, and MEDITECH.

Strong integration with IGEL Ready technology partner Imprivata (at the OS level) helps ensure instant access to patient data from any compatible x86-64 device, including computers on wheels (CoWs) and locally accessed stationary devices, like at nursing stations. Clinicians can roam between devices and immediately access where they left off, or multiple clinicians can share a single device. In all cases, the access to needed apps and patient info is seamless and secure with a single smartcard “tap” or mouse click, with HIPAA and GDPR information confidentiality compliance maintained at all times.

Ready for smarter endpoint security and optimization? Contact Connection today to receive a 30-day free trial.

IGEL Healthcare OS Solution Case Study

Case Study

Healthcare service providers operating across different regions benefit
from leveraging the secure VDI solution provided by VMware Horizon 7 and IGEL Workspace Edition. Read the Use Case.

Take Advantage of Built-in Silicon to... Dec 08, 2022 Connection

Data center security has never been more important. The damage caused by security breaches with lost data, reparation fee payouts, privacy noncompliance penalties, and confidentiality leakages can critically harm a business. Protecting your data center—meaning the servers, their operations, their storage, and the data and applications hosted within them—requires a multilayered approach for comprehensive system integrity. Not only do you need policies, procedures, and processes to defend against cyberattacks, but you also need built-in technologies at the silicon level.

Data Is Your Business’s Lifeblood

Data is the lifeblood of business today. It fuels innovation, insights, and intelligence and is present at every layer of operations, from firmware to BIOS to applications. Availability of data at the speed of need is essential to organizational success; accelerating data movement supports rapid decision-making based on appropriate and timely business intelligence.

However, business intelligence is only as good as the data it references. It is vital to ensure data remains clean, uncorrupted, and accessible and that all systems remain capable. Hardware-based security features built into the silicon level deliver systemic protection.

This is where Intel® processors come into play. They have the most built-in accelerators of any processor currently available. As a result, they deliver the capabilities to support your data center infrastructure and the most-demanding applications—from cloud and in-memory analytics to high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI). The Intel® Xeon® Scalable platform is highly versatile and provides a foundation for data center agility and scalability with expansive capabilities and convergence across compute, storage, memory, network, and security.

Faster, Easier, and More Secure Operations

While known for high performance and accelerated compute, Intel Xeon processors also deliver breakthrough cryptographic performance thanks to algorithmic and software innovations. Security technologies built into Intel Xeon Scalable processors make data available for analysis even if it’s sensitive, confidential, or regulated.

Intel Xeon Scalable processors offer built-in Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX), which supports confidential computing for data in use by enabling enclaves of protected data. With a dual-socket Intel Xeon Scalable processor-based server, up to 1 TB of data can be processed inside Intel SGX enclaves. This creates opportunities for analytics and applications requiring large data sets. When the training or processing is complete, any private information can be deleted or re-encrypted before leaving the enclave.

3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors

In the future, Intel SGX will be joined by Intel® Trust Domain Extensions (Intel® TDX), a new tool that offers confidentiality at the virtual machine (VM) level. Within an Intel TDX confidential VM, the guest OS and all the VM applications are isolated from the cloud host, hypervisor, and other VMs on the platform. With Intel TDX, the trust boundary will be larger than the application-level isolation of Intel SGX, while confidential VMs will be easier to deploy and manage at scale than application enclaves. The combination of Intel SGX and Intel TDX as the Intel® portfolio of confidential computing technologies will enable businesses to choose their optimal security level to meet both business needs and regulatory requirements.

Federated Learning with Protected Data

When training neural networks, sharing data between entities can greatly increase accuracy and speed of training processes. Sharing confidential data between trusted multiparty compute models for such use cases as federated learning is possible with Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Employing Intel Xeon Scalable processors with Intel SGX enclaves allows multiple parties to pool sensitive data and share the benefits of a common analysis without exposing their private data to the other parties. And remote attestation allows the owner of the data to verify that their enclave is genuine, up to date, and running only the software they expect.

Intel® security technologies are helping businesses take advantage of the flexibility and scalability of the cloud while reducing the risk of exposing sensitive data. This combination of technologies—Intel Xeon processors and Intel SGX—also enables compliance with privacy regulations and data availability and supports isolating sensitive data from your cloud providers’ software, administrators, and other tenants.

Futureproof Built-in Security

Another significant benefit of Intel Xeon processors is that they can work with your existing data center infrastructure. Intel Xeon processors are also futureproofed. You’ll be able to upgrade to future Intel® technology releases, such as Sapphire Rapids, easily and seamlessly. By using Intel Xeon Scalable processors, you enable your data center operations to run in a trusted environment for more reliable, scalable, workload-optimized performance.

Episode 112: Hybrid Cloud Strategies for the Modern Data Center

For more on protecting the modern data center, listen to the latest Intel and Connection podcast to explore best practices of a hybrid cloud strategy.

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.
No product or component can be absolutely secure.
Your costs and results may vary. © Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Migrate to the Cloud with Azure VMware Solution Dec 06, 2022 Makayla Mota

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. 

TechSperience Episode 114: Prevent Data Loss... Dec 06, 2022 Connection

We often take power for granted. But when there’s a power failure, a planned outage, or a natural disaster, we’re reminded that power is such a necessity. In today’s digital world, data loss and downtime for IT can lead to long-term financial and reputational damage for organizations. The risks are even greater for healthcare and critical infrastructure industries. Listen in on our latest podcast to hear how simple it is to prevent data loss and power failure before it’s too late.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Hillary Watkins, Product Marketing Specialist for Single Phase UPS at Vertiv
  • Joe Doherty, Power and Cooling Business Development Specialist at Connection

You can also hear this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Show Notes:

[3:26] Do most organizations have the appropriate power backup in place? Many offices and facilities have backup generators, but there’s typically a delay from the moment the power interruption or outage occurs and the generator kicking in. Data can be lost during this time—in addition to impairing business operations. Having a UPS in place can mitigate this risk.

[5:00] How has the remote and hybrid working environment of today impacted the approach to power and battery backups? Many IT professionals are now working from home where it isn’t possible to physically hear the maintenance beeps and alarms. Remote IT teams are now reliant on setting up systems to be able to receive remote notifications, but many are not set up that way. Instead, IT and facility teams are trying to keep up with the alarms rather than being proactive on the maintenance and replacement schedules.

[6:23] How can teams plan for business continuity? Preventative measures are key. Gartner has reported that the cost of downtime is estimated at $5,600 per minute. Many of us are too busy tackling the next problem, but teams should plan for the worst-case scenario instead of constantly chasing it. The cost of a UPS or battery backup is minimal compared to what could be lost in an event where power is disrupted by a hurricane, power outage, or even vibration from nearby construction.

[12:54] Some teams may be thinking whether investing in UPSs makes sense. What is your perspective? The key question is: “Do you want to save dollars or do you want to save your data?” Downtime can lead to major losses. There are a wide variety of UPSs available. There are units that feature lithium-ion batteries—which deliver 8-10 years of performance instead of the average 3-5 years—leading to a lower total cost of ownership. 

[17:00] Who should be involved when it comes to business continuity planning? Facility planning staff should be involved in the discussions as they are typically responsible for the overall infrastructure and disaster recovery plans. IT is responsible for protecting data and managing the servers and networks. From the budgeting and ROI perspective, finance plays a vital role in the final decision-making process.

[20:00] What about remote employees and their backup needs? We’ve all experienced power outages at home. A UPS is certainly a best practice, but it requires finding the right fit based on user needs and effective communications. You certainly don’t want people plugging in heaters and extraneous devices that will overload their UPS. You’re also relying on employees to notify IT or facility teams of issues and having them replace units. Regular communications about appropriate and proactive maintenance practices are necessary. 

[24:13] What is the value Vertiv can bring? Vertiv is a newer name in the industry, but it really is the make-up of the former Liebert and Emerson power product lines that have been around since the 1960s. These power and cooling products are performance leaders in the industry. 

To learn more, please reach out to a Connection Account Manager, or visit
TechSperience Episode 113: The Technology... Nov 29, 2022 Connection

In a recent Forrester report, 77% of full-time employees said PC devices play a critical factor in their ability to do their work. In today’s climate of hybrid and remote environments, how do you determine what technologies users need and what’s at risk if user experience isn’t prioritized? Listen to this podcast to hear why developing persona-based solutions is critical to user productivity, onboarding, and overall happiness.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Rhett Livengood, Director of Digital Business Enabling at Intel
  • Tim Burns, Vice President of Product Management and Workplace Transformation at Connection

You can also hear this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Show Notes:

[2:55] Walk through how the pandemic impacted user technologies. Where are we now? The first phase of the pandemic was about making sure equipment made it out to users as organizations turned to remote environments. Now that users have devices, the concern has shifted to whether users have the right devices, are they secure, and how can their user experience be improved.

[4:00] How has security changed? Pre-pandemic, many of us relied on software-based security applications. Teams kept adding more and more of these applications, which eventually slowed down machines, especially consumer-grade machines. Intel has focused on developing hardware-based security so that users can have machines that can keep up with their productivity needs.

[6:00] What did we learn post-pandemic? There is an emphasis on making sure users can be their best digital selves. Users are relying on collaboration platforms to meet, coordinate, and accomplish their tasks. The onboarding experience is also critical. Looking at how quickly a user can get up and running with the appropriate tools plays an important role in productivity and the overall user experience.

[11:11] How has the remote or hybrid environment impacted IT deployment? The world has become distributed—employees, students, clinicians, and even IT teams. There’s also a need to have out-of-the-box or turnkey solutions ready to go. Many organizations are looking for a partner that can customize devices, applications, and accessories in addition to deploying the equipment to users. 

[13:14] Some organizations don’t see the value in customizing devices and are purchasing consumer-grade machines. What’s the potential downfall with this approach? Each user has different needs so there shouldn’t be a generalization. Providing a checklist or a survey to understand your personas’ requirements can help you determine the appropriate bundle of solutions. Enterprise-grade PCs, such as those that feature Intel® vPro™, can prioritize your Wi-Fi so that your Zoom or Teams meeting takes precedence over your child’s online gaming connection.

[17:45] What’s at stake if user experience isn’t prioritized? There are many studies that illustrate how technology plays a critical factor across the overall user experience: onboarding, productivity, retention, and happiness. Understanding personas, or the different types of users you support, is critical. We have researched how different users work or study and created bundles of hardware, software, and services that would optimize productivity and user experience. These persona-based bundles range from a middle school student to a graphic designer or a road warrior. 

[24:28] Many users find themselves going out to purchase an accessory or device at a store. Are there pitfalls with this? User experience is not just IT’s responsibility. It’s also the responsibility of each user too. Buying disparate hardware, accessories, and software will limit IT’s ability to help troubleshoot or support users. 

[27:00] What is next in technology as it relates to user experience? Collaboration 2.0 will give users higher quality audio and video features such as panning, eye tracking, and zooming. Connectivity will continue to advance as 5G will be built-in as a backup to 6G Wi-Fi networks. In the next few years, 7G will give us an opportunity to streamline computing across various devices, including autonomous vehicles. Artificial intelligence will transform productivity as the technology learns how to perform repeated tasks users perform.

Explore Your Wherever Workspace to learn more about persona-based bundles or visit the Intel showcase to discover their latest technologies.

Hyperscale Cloud Management... Nov 17, 2022 jonathan cantella

We have all watched superhero movies or a show, with the hero saving the day from whatever threat or outward obstacle they may face. Whether it’s Batman saving Gotham City from another sinister plan of Joker’s or the Avengers saving the world from the likes of Thanos or Galactus. Behind each of our favorite superheroes is almost always a team supporting them. A vital part of the Batman mythos, Alfred Pennyworth has been called Batman’s Batman. Hyperscale Cloud Managed Service providers like Connection, can fill any technology and management gaps so you can focus on what really matters—supporting your users and growing your business. 

Managed Services for the Pillars of Your IT environment

Whether your organization recently began to shift more of your operations to the cloud or you’re actively engaged, growing, and looking for optimization, Connection has you covered. With current services offered for Azure, Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), Microsoft 365 (M365), Backup as a Service (BaaS) and more, our experts are ready to help your IT superhero team navigate through any cloud-based workload concerns you may have.  

All of our base offerings provide 24x7 support, proactive infrastructure monitoring/alerting, proactive security with compliance monitoring, and general management of your cloud environment. With these tasks taken care of, your organization can avoid: 

  • Rise of operational risk: Any strategy you choose must work on your existing cloud operations. If there are gaps in your strategy, they could lead to operational risks in your current processes and halt the functioning of revenue-generating models, such as sales and supply chain. 
  • Rise of security risks: Applications running on public cloud are more vulnerable to cloud security risks. Considering this fact, it is important to have the right security strategy in place. 
  • Decrease in service value: Lacking the right service support can make your shift to cloud more expensive and may often take more time than expected, resulting in additional costs. 

Some of our services also include on-demand service hours to help you expand your cloud environment based on your technical requirements. These hours refresh each month and connect you with a specific team of experts. Are you looking to spin up a new environment in Azure? Our team of certified Azure Experts is ready to put that time in for you. By simply contacting your assigned Customer Success Manager and explaining your goal, our team is ready and able to map out a strategy we can execute on to make it happen.   

Reduce Your Threat Levels with the Right Tools

At the end of the day, no matter the service you choose, your cloud environment is still yours, and our experts are here to be an extension of your team. We strive to make your day-to-day easier—just think of us as a few new gadgets in your superhero utility belt. 

For more details about the Hyperscale Cloud Managed Services we offer, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Account Manager or contact us here for more information.

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Protect PC Fleets with Hardware-Enabled... Nov 15, 2022 Connection

Devices must remain secure, regardless of where they are being used in today’s work-from-anywhere business model. Software-based security alone is not enough to defend data and IT infrastructure against increasingly sophisticated threats. Hackers can bypass software-based security to exploit vulnerabilities at a lower layer, meaning at the firmware, BIOS, OS, or hypervisor level. This rapid evolution of the cyber threat landscape requires organizations to use a multilayered approach to strengthen the systems security chain, including both hardware- and software-based technologies, starting from the root with platform silicon.

Three Levels of Systems Protection

Humans are the weakest link when it comes to PC security. Phishing, weak passwords, and human error are significant vulnerabilities when it comes to cybersecurity. Adopting procedures and training that educate employees on security best practices is a recommended PC security strategy. At the same time, organizations can rely on hardware-level security to help protect their PCs with confidence.

A comprehensive cybersecurity strategy considers three levels of protection:

  1. Foundational security below the OS level helps verify trustworthiness of devices and data from boot-up through operations.
  2. Workload and data protection protects data through accelerated encryption and trusted execution for hardware-isolated data protection.
  3. Advanced threat protections help augment endpoint security solutions to identify threats that use sophisticated evasion techniques.

Combined, these three levels ensure systemic protection for PCs and their data.

Survey Results Indicate Security Strategy Investments Are a Priority

PCs are the third-highest source for breaches, according to a Verizon investigative report1. And according to a report by Forrester2, businesses understand the importance of cybersecurity but struggle to implement hardware-based solutions: 80 percent of ITDMs believe that managing the complexity of hardware-based security is a challenge.

Security strategy is now a mandate for organizations. Ponemon Institute independently conducted a survey of 1,406 individuals in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America who influence decision-making around security technology investments for their organizations. Key findings from the study, sponsored by Intel, include:

  • 53 percent of respondents say their organizations refreshed their security strategy because of the pandemic.3
  • Of the 36 percent of organizations using hardware-assisted security solutions, 85 percent say hardware- and/or firmware-based security is a high or very high priority in their organization.3

Silicon-level Security Protects Up the Stack

Each layer of the stack is only as good as the one below it. Investing in sophisticated security technologies at every layer, from firmware to BIOS to data, means better protection up the stack for IT operations. Protecting your PCs depends on the next-lowest layer of protection. By using hardware-based security features built into the silicon level, you can secure data and maintain device integrity based on a trusted foundation.

At the firmware layer, malware can gain highly privileged access to the system and is difficult to detect using software. Intel® Device Protection Technology, also known as Intel® Boot Guard, and Intel® Platform Firmware Resilience (Intel® PFR) can help verify trusted startup, block interference, and recover to a known state if compromised.

At the BIOS, OS, and hypervisor layer, Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) helps attest that these operations have not been compromised.

Virtualization uses software to create an abstraction layer over computer hardware that allows the hardware elements of a single computer—such as processors, memory, storage, and more—to be divided into multiple virtual computers, commonly called virtual machines (VMs). This enables a more modern architecture to run business applications and provides for additional hardware-security-enforced isolation capabilities. You can help protect user access credentials, workspaces, applications, and data in hardened enclaves as well without impacting the user experience. You can:

  • Run virtual machines for security-based isolation with application compatibility across different operating systems running on the same PC with the many capabilities featured in Intel® Hardware Shield.
  • Use Windows Defender Credential Guard and Application Guard with Intel virtualization capabilities to help protect against OS kernel‒level malware and browser-based attacks.
  • Complement virtualization with hardware-based encryption to help protect data at every layer.

Intel works with major endpoint security software ISVs, including ESET, Microsoft Defender, and CrowdStrike so that Intel vPro® advanced threat protection is built into their solutions with little configuration required. For example, CrowdStrike used the Intel® TDT Accelerated Memory Scanning capabilities to detect fileless attacks to memory that are now being used as an entry point in 72 percent of all attacks4. The 7x5 boost in performance delivers a broader scanning capability that uncovers early indicators of attack before an attack payload can execute.

For recovery from successful attacks, Intel vPro manageability solutions enable a more reliable firmware update and recovery feature so that ITDMs are willing to patch systems more frequently in the field.

For advanced threat protections, bolster antivirus software to catch threats using techniques that are extremely difficult for security software alone to uncover. Intel® Control-Flow Enforcement Technology (Intel® CET) on 11th Gen systems forward is designed to help defend against return-oriented programming (ROP) attacks to system memory. Intel® Threat Detection Technology (Intel® TDT) defends against ransomware and malicious crypto mining with minimal impact on performance.

A PC powered by Intel vPro® Enterprise for Windows includes the unique capabilities of Intel Hardware Shield built in to deliver one of the highest levels of hardware, software, and data protection right out of the box. This technology has three groups of security technologies: below-the-OS security, application and data protections, and advanced threat protections. It will launch in a trusted state, lock down memory in the BIOS when software is running, and help prevent planted malware from compromising the OS.

Altogether, Intel® hardware-enabled security boosts protection and enables the ecosystem to better defend against modern cybersecurity threats and improve software resilience.

Start with a Root of Trust to Build a Chain of Trust

Security is only as strong as the layer below it. By starting with a root of trust based in the silicon—like Intel delivers—security architects can help create a trusted foundation for computing. Strengthening security features at each layer can make the entire system more secure, which creates a chain of trust through all layers of the IT stack. This helps minimize the impact to system performance, while enabling secure and efficient compute. Investing in security technologies is critical in working toward an operational zero trust strategy for today and tomorrow.

Connection Cybersecurity Services help manage fleets directly using these built-in security and manageability features for detection and response for customers.

For more on PC security, listen to this podcast with Rhett Livengood, Director of Digital Business Enabling at Intel.

1. Gabriel Bassett, C. David Hylender, Philippe Langlois, Alex Pinto, Suzanne Widup, “2022 Data Breach Investigations Report”, Verizon, 2022,

2. The Forrester Research, Inc., “The Total Economic Impact™ Of Intel AI Report”, June 2021,

3. Ponemon Institute LLC, sponsored by Intel, “Security Innovation: Secure Systems Start with Foundational Hardware”, April 2022,

4. CrowdStrike, “2022 Global Threat Report”, 2022,

5.  Jenny Mankin, “CrowdStrike Falcon Enhances Fileless Attack Detection with Intel Accelerated Memory Scanning Feature”, March 3, 2022,

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.

No product or component can be absolutely secure.

Your costs and results may vary.

© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Inside Look: Get to Know Sam Harrington and... Nov 15, 2022 Connection

Connection started out 40 years ago with two employees and a phone line. Today, we’re a Fortune 1000 IT solutions partner. Meet the incredible people that help calm the confusion of IT and guide the connection between people and technology. Check out our Inside Look series to discover how we solve IT and what it’s like to work in different departments within our organization.

Sam Harrington, Partner Marketing Manager, HP

Description of role: I develop integrated marketing plans for HP that span across all our sales segments at Connection.

Length of time at Connection: 7 years

How has your career grown since starting at the company?

My career growth has been great at Connection. I started as an entry-level marketing coordinator, and now I oversee all of HP’s marketing efforts. Hard work certainly pays off here. I have been at Connection for seven years and have been promoted four times. I have learned so much about website development, digital marketing, and partner relations throughout my time and continue to learn new skills every day.

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at Connection?

The people and the relationships I have gained. I work with amazing colleagues, and some of them have become true friends of mine.

What projects excite you right now?

The project that excites me the most right now is revamping HP landing pages on the Connection website. The plan is to make the customer journey clean and organized, while keeping content relevant and easily digestible for the customer. The refresh will enhance our digital marketing efforts too.

What advice do you have for someone that is interested in a career in technology?

Go for it! Try it out. Having a career in technology is never a bad idea, in my opinion. Technology is the foundation for how people get stuff done. It’s not going anywhere. For example, COVID negatively affected a lot of industries, but not the tech industry. If anything, customers started buying more technology. A lack of demand will never be an issue.

What makes Connection an employer of choice?

Managers are flexible when it comes to your work schedule. They understand that you have doctor’s appointments and family commitments. Connection offers great benefits and a generous PTO program including floating holidays.

Jo Massie, Senior Process Analyst, Customer Experience

Description of role: I’m responsible for analyzing, evaluating, and proposing business process improvements to elevate our customers’ experience.

Length of time at Connection: 29 years

How has your career grown since starting at the company?

I started at Connection as a picker-and-packer in the Shipping department. I worked my way across various departments such as Returns and Inventory Control. I was then promoted as a lead within Corporate Services and ultimately served as supervisor of the department. Now, I’m part of our Customer Experience team within our Technology Integration and Distribution Center.

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at Connection?

The most fulfilling thing is to be able to provide my experience and knowledge to help my colleagues achieve their customer service and professional goals.

How would you describe the company culture?

Connection was built on being a family. We have grown so much over the years, but we still have a close-knit feel. The company also invests in helping you enhance your skills and giving you the tools you need to grow. I feel that Connection really cares about my well-being and the well-being of my family.

What advice do you have for someone that is interested in a career in technology?

This isn’t directly tied to a career in technology, but the best advice I would give is that it’s really what you bring to the table that will help you the most in your professional career. From taking initiative to learning new skills—it’s what you make out of your opportunities that will help you grow at Connection.

Celebrating 40 Years of Innovation

Discover what unites our team and makes Connection a one-of-a-kind workplace. If you’re looking for a career where you’ll be surrounded by people who love to dream big, dig deep, and support each other, you’ll find your place at Connection. See our open positions at

Microsoft Ignite 2022 Recap: What’s New? Nov 10, 2022 Makayla Mota

Microsoft Ignite 2022 did not disappoint! With a real focus on catering to hybrid work environments for ever-changing work models, here are some of the top announcements from the conference that we are excited about.

Microsoft Teams

  1. Mesh Avatars in Microsoft Teams
    Oh my gosh, have you seen this? Mesh Avatars in Microsoft Teams allow you to set up a customized animated version of yourself to display when your camera is off. Once you have installed the Avatars App from the Teams App store you can design up to three avatars with hundreds of unique customization options. You can opt to use your avatar during meetings by selecting the Effects and Avatars menu before joining and choose from several gestures and reactions during the meeting. Mesh Avatars are now in private preview and I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on them!

    Microsoft Tech Community
  2. Microsoft Teams Premium
    Microsoft Teams Premium is an add-on that was designed to make everything more personalized, secure, and intelligent. It’s going into preview in December and then general availability in February 2023, and here are the highlighted features:
    • Meeting guides managed by IT for a more personalized experience during meetings—be that a call with a client, prospecting call, brainstorming session, or others
    • Custom logos and backgrounds during Teams meetings and for the lobby, as well as setting custom scenes for Together mode
    • Teams meetings’ recaps
    • Automatically generated and assigned AI-generated tasks after meetings
    • Meeting recordings have highlights important moments in the meeting
    • Real-time translations for 40 spoken languages
    • Advanced meeting protection
    • Advanced webinars
  3. New Teams Meeting Features
    Microsoft Teams meetings are a workplace staple at this point, and Microsoft keeps adding features to improve the experience. Here are the new features announced at Ignite that I am most excited about:
    • Cameo is now generally available. It is a PowerPoint experience that allows you to seamlessly integrate your camera feed into a PowerPoint live presentation and customize how you appear on slides.
    • Collaborate with your team on an Excel spreadsheet in real-time through a meeting window through Excel Live.
    • Meeting organizers can now assign seats to meeting participants in the Together mode view and select Together mode for everyone.

      Presenting with Cameo
  4. New Collaborative Apps for Teams
    How often do you check the Teams App Store? I am guilty of checking it daily to see what new apps I can find! Here are some of the newest collaborative apps that were announced at Ignite:
    • 3M—Their Post-It® app allows users to digitize handwritten notes. With your phone or laptop camera, you can translate handwritten or drawn Post-It® notes onto your digital whiteboard.
    • iHeartRadio—This app allows users to listen to music while working and share radio stations with team members. It is the first music app in Teams!
    • There are also lots of other exciting new apps to explore by Microsoft partners, such as Workday, Zendesk, ServiceNow, Zoho, and others.

      Post-It app

Microsoft 365

  1. Outlook update with tools in place for hybrid work
    Hybrid working is here to stay, and new features are coming to Outlook to help employees stay connected:
    • Working hours and location is a feature that allows users to plan their work week so their colleagues can better plan meetings and communications.
    • Meeting recap makes it possible to find the information about a meeting and access the recording from the calendar event.
    • Outlook and Teams are adding the ability to schedule a message to be sent at a later time and date to both accommodate employees in different time zones and to respect their off-hours and vacations.
    • Outlook is adding message reactions so employees can react to and acknowledge emails the same way they can react to messages on Teams!
    • Editor using Context IQ enables you to better navigate through your emails. By using @ mentions you can now surface relevant people and files based on the context typed in an email. Context IQ is a set of capabilities that connects people with the information they require. It works in the background to connect content across different Microsoft 365 products.
  2. New Features in Microsoft Project and Planner
    To help balance team workloads and track project goals, several exciting new features are coming to Project for the web and Microsoft Planner. Here’s some of what we can expect:
    • Seamless integration of Planner and Project to Viva Goals to allow for better visibility of the team’s work and progress in each project.
    • Users will be able to see all their tasks in the Assigned to Me list (includes Tasks in Teams, Planner and To-Do).
    • Users will be able to plan, prioritize and schedule the backlog of tasks into time-boxed blocks of Sprints in Project.
    • There’s a new People view in Project that gives managers better understanding of workload distribution and allows for easy task reassignment.
  3. Video content in Microsoft 365
    Video has quickly become an invaluable way to keep remote and hybrid teams connected, and Microsoft Stream, built on SharePoint, makes videos as easy to work with and share as documents. New features include:
    • Improved Stream and webcam recording
    • Background blur, inking text, and effects are now generally available
    • Capability to access Teams meeting recordings now available in the Stream mobile app
    • New meeting recording playback capabilities including personalized timeline markers, auto generated chapters, and intelligent search

      Microsoft Stream


  1. New capabilities for Microsoft Defender for Cloud
    Microsoft introduced new capabilities for Microsoft Defender in Cloud that help to support hybrid and multi-cloud environments—enabling organizations to strengthen their cloud security posture, extend threat protection across workloads, and integrate DevOps security. New capabilities include:
    • Microsoft Defender for DevOps: A new solution that will provide visibility across multiple DevOps environments to centrally manage DevOps security, strengthen cloud resource configurations in code, and help prioritize remediation of critical issues in code across multi-pipeline and multi-cloud environments.
    • Microsoft Defender Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): Now available in preview, this solution will build on existing capabilities to deliver integrated insights across cloud resources, including DevOps, runtime infrastructure, and external attack surfaces, and will provide contextual risk-based information to security teams.
    • Microsoft cloud security benchmark: This built-in benchmark maps best practices across clouds and industry frameworks, enabling security teams to drive multi-cloud security compliance. Now generally available with Microsoft Defender for Cloud.
    • Expanded workload protection capabilities: Microsoft Defender for Servers will support agentless scanning, in addition to an agent-based approach to virtual machines (VMs) in Azure and AWS. Defender for Servers P2 will provide Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management premium capabilities. Microsoft Defender for Containers will expand multi-cloud threat protection with agentless scanning in AWS Elastic Container Registry. These updates are in preview.

Be sure to check out the Microsoft Ignite Book of News for more information and a comprehensive list of all announcements from Ignite 2022. As always, your Connection resources are here to help. Reach out to your Account Team to learn more.

How to Manage Global IT Procurement with... Nov 10, 2022 Jessica Cerone

The current fluctuation in exchange rates has significantly impacted the tech industry. With the global chip shortage and supply chain challenges being consistent themes since the start of the pandemic, the current foreign exchange headwinds are adding yet another layer of complexity. The strong value of the dollar surged to its highest level in 20 years, resulting in the decline of billions of expected earnings for U.S. companies, including several large OEMs. 

The fluctuation of local currency is extremely volatile. There is no longer a back-and-forth swing anymore. Instead, it’s continuing to spiral and decline in many countries. U.S. companies with offices abroad should account for the unique economic challenges that are impacting IT procurement processes and pricing. For instance, the war in Ukraine has disrupted global energy and food markets, leading to a ripple effect impacting Europe and the Middle East.

As a result of the war, currency fluctuation is extremely volatile in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region as a result:

Procurement Exchange Rate Commonwealth of Independent States Region - Global IT Procurement
Data as of October 2022

Global Economic Impact

The power of the U.S. dollar continues to grow stronger. This may sound like great news, but for many countries, especially underdeveloped nations, the strength of the dollar is wreaking havoc on economies. The costs of imported food, pharmaceuticals, and fuel—typically priced in USD—have been skyrocketing, adding further stress to already struggling economies. 

According to Bloomberg Economics, the Egyptian pound needs to decrease in value by 23% to alleviate the country’s currency crises. Economists report that in 2021, $100 worth of oil used was valued at 1,572 Egyptian pounds. Due to the fluctuations in currency valuations, the same $100 worth of oil is approximately 1,950 Egyptian pounds today. Egypt is currently using an “unofficial” exchange rate called the Black Market exchange rate. There can be a 5, 10, or even 15% difference between the two on any given day. The Black Market rate changes daily, which makes it extremely difficult to lock in a rate as we have been able to do in the past. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of USD in Egypt, forcing the country to use the alternative exchange rate. This makes it tricky for customers to plan and budget accordingly.  Resellers and distributors are asking for upfront payments in lieu of standard net terms. And in the near future, distributors and manufacturers are planning to raise prices of bid and non-bid items due to the volatile foreign exchange rate. 

Bloomberg Foreign Exchange Rate - Global IT Procurement

Strategies to Minimize Currency Fluctuation Risks 

In today’s volatile market, organizations with overseas operations are seeing IT costs rise significantly between the quoting process and the transaction. So, what can companies do to minimize these risks?  

  • Plan in USD to minimize currency fluctuation risk
  • Work with your partners to build in a variance buffer to allow for fluctuation changes 
  • Minimize the time in between the transaction and the quoting, invoicing, or purchase order
  • Look at statistics and use hedge rates to plan for potential cost changes
  • Anticipate paying upfront to secure products and lock in the exchange rate

Overall, it takes proper planning and flexibility during these challenging times. Stockholding* or warehousing, pre-ordering products, and securing allocation are ways to lock in rates while alleviating lead time constraints. It’s also important to be open to local in-stock inventory and to understand local unofficial exchange rates may need to be applied vs. country bank exchange rates, as there are fluctuation variations between the two.

Despite these challenges, don’t stall on your IT purchases. It may seem wise to delay procurement of IT equipment and services until currency fluctuations stabilize, but there is no way to predict the future. 

The Path Forward for Global IT Procurement

Despite these challenges, don’t stall on your IT purchases. It may seem wise to delay procurement of IT equipment and services until currency fluctuations stabilize, but there is no way to predict the future. Not investing in the necessary technologies to run your business can open you up to cybersecurity risks, lead to operational inefficiencies, result in dissatisfied clients and employees, and cause reputational damage—all leading to even greater financial loss. 

With inflation and transportation costs rising, delaying purchases beyond their date of requirement might actually result in more expensive purchases. Minimizing the time in between quotation to transaction can only benefit you. Lead times are also still significantly impacted post-pandemic and have not gone back to how they were pre-pandemic.

The war between Russia and Ukraine has impacted currency volatility as we have discussed. We do not foresee positive change progression in both lead times and currency volatility until the latter part of 2023. Currently, the best thing is to be adaptable and plan in advance.

Understanding and tracking economic conditions is a big undertaking. And with already limited IT and procurement resources, looking to a partner that specializes in this area can greatly benefit your company. To learn more, please visit our global procurement solution.

Listen to this podcast for more tips on how to navigate global IT supply chain challenges.

*Stockholding services may be offered in certain cases.

Reduce Downtime and Increase Effectiveness... Nov 08, 2022 James Rust

The last maintenance department I worked with had several issues thanks to the challenges of the past few years. Due to increased demand, keeping machines up and running was more vital than ever, but machine failure rates were at an all-time high, coupled with increased mean time to repair (MTTR). This led to missed production targets, increased labor costs, and a lower on-time delivery rate.

High turnover meant that operator errors causing machine breakdowns had gone up. The experienced maintenance personnel who could quickly fix previously seen errors had left, taking their knowledge with them. When maintenance is dealing with limited manpower, a lack of experience with specific machines, and is being pulled in all directions by various stakeholders, how can they effectively prioritize their work?

CMMS Software Can Help

A recent survey showed that, in 2021, 27% of businesses run their maintenance departments on spreadsheets. While this can work to track what has been completed, work assigned this way must often be done manually. More complex features like automated parts usage tracking and optimized stock levels are nonexistent with this approach.

Luckily, computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software has come a long way. Centralized software that is readily accessible to both maintenance and other employees can make breakdown notifications easy. One CMMS customer saw a staggering decrease in downtime from 26% to 4% after implementation. This was accomplished not only by prioritizing work but recording the work that was done in such a way that any new maintenance employee could easily follow the notes and make repairs.

Custom reports and KPIs can be created so the metrics and work most important to your specific operation can be easily tracked. Once live, a modern CMMS can seamlessly integrate with machine sensors so that any anomalies will be reported to maintenance before machine breakdowns occur. This results in clear direction for maintenance staff, a happier workforce, and more time available to complete preventative and predictive maintenance to stop issues before they start.

Empower Your Employees and See Results Fast

Implementing a modern CMMS system can give a quick ROI for businesses and even impact areas other than maintenance. If you’re considering upgrading your existing system or implementing a new one, engage our Manufacturing Practice. We can review your business needs and recommend a CMMS that is right for you.

Announcing the 2022 IT Superhero Award Winners Nov 07, 2022 Connection

Earlier this year, we asked for your nominations for our second annual IT Superhero Awards contest—and you did not disappoint! We received hundreds of stories of skilled, dedicated IT pros who go above and beyond at organizations across the country. And now we’re excited to announce the winners!

We teamed up with TechCrunch again to present the IT Superhero Awards at TechCrunch Disrupt 22 on October 20. Our panel of judges had a tough time narrowing down the nominations, but we can now share the 2022 IT Superheroes:

  • Best Team Leader—Patrick McGee, Director of Technology Support Services, St. Johns County School District
  • Best Rookie—Ben Esquivel, Director of Information Technology, Imperial Unified School District
  • Best Catch—John Fisher, System Administrator, Visiting Nurse Association of Northern New Jersey
  • Most Unshakeable—Lisa Michel, Customer Service Support Manager, Information Technology, Rochester Electronics
  • Best Superpower—Chase Zieman, Chief Data Science Officer,

Watch the video of the announcement.

Patrick McGee was also awarded the grand prize of Ultimate IT Superhero for his achievements. Congratulations and well done!

Watch Jamal Khan, Chief Growth and Innovation Officer at Connection, present the Ultimate IT Superhero award to Patrick McGee.

This year, we also partnered with our Connection Cares team to honor the winners by making donations in their names to one of three charities working to help underserved communities gain technology skills: Year Up, NPower, and Girls Who Code. Each winner got to direct $1,000 to their charity of choice—and our Ultimate IT Superhero got to give away $2,000. Coincidentally, all winners chose Girls Who Code, which will receive $6,000.

We want to send a huge thank you to all the other IT superheroes out there—and we encourage you to think of someone to nominate for next year! In the meantime, you can visit to learn more about the winners’ heroic efforts, as well as the IT Superhero Awards contest.

The Link Between Technology and Great... Oct 25, 2022 Connection

When employee technology doesn’t work, neither does your business. Imagine trying to call into a video meeting and being unable to multitask with a document or having an unstable connection, while your email won’t load properly, and your computer fan sounds like a jet turbine. These kinds of technology malfunctions or inadequate compute power can create frustration and an inability to work productively—or at all! And the people waiting for your input are left in limbo as you try to sort it out. While an extreme example, this kind of scenario can be routine for today’s employees. And it forms their employee experience, meaning their overall perceptions and day-to-day attitude about working with your organization.

Technology is the essential tool employees now use in their daily work, especially given the increase in remote work opportunities. As such, it affects employee motivation, long-term retention, and their willingness to engage fully in their work. If the employee experience is not positive, you could lose the benefit of their talent, knowledge, and expertise. In fact, Intel survey results show that 42 percent of the younger generation will quit their job if they feel unsatisfied with technology.1

The importance of the PC in employee experience is that it is a portal through which employees experience their work every day. Their device is their tool for attending meetings, getting work done, and using applications for productivity, collaboration, and reporting. According to a recent Forrester report, 77 percent of full-time employees surveyed view PC devices as a critical factor in their engagement and ability to succeed in what they are being asked to do in their work.2 Employees need to be satisfied with the collaboration technologies they use, have easy access to the information and tools to do their job, and be satisfied with the overall technology portfolio on the devices they use in their work.2

Survey respondents agree that PC devices are critical for increasing customer satisfaction (69 percent), revenue growth (62 percent), and employee retention (55 percent).2 That means investing in a well-powered, reliable, functional PC is an investment in your employee(s). By purchasing appropriate PC devices to meet employee needs, IT decision makers support—and can even drive—employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees create quality work, which, in turn, means greater customer satisfaction for a stronger bottom line. When you reframe investments in technology as simultaneous investments in employee experience, the link between technology and business outcomes becomes evident.

The Disconnect between Requirements and What Employees Need

Interestingly, 62 percent of surveyed employee respondents agreed that PC devices are critical for revenue growth, but only 33 percent of respondents said they were extremely satisfied with their company-provided device.2 Half of respondents even said they thought their computer was insufficient or out of date.2 This demonstrates that IT decision makers and employees have a disconnect when it comes to the requirements that employees actually need with their device. IT leaders usually focus on manageability, security, and stability. And while these can impact employee experience, there are many more PC purchase considerations that can improve a business’s overall employee experience.

Remote work also brings new challenges for IT staff employees. When employees move from working in an office environment to working remotely, they have different experiences based on different conditions. And IT often struggles with a level of visibility into how and where tech or user experience problems may be happening. For example, it can be hard to know if a problem is related to the application or related to wireless connectivity. IT staff need greater visibility for device management wherever the employee and their device are located to be effective in their work.

The Benefits of Investing in Technology for Employee Experience

Eighty-eight percent of IT decision makers recognize that investments in employee experience are critical to build resilience.2 As a result of investing in technology for employee satisfaction, nearly 60 percent of IT decision makers have seen a more than 10 percent improvement in their employee experience scores.2 Even more, IT leaders are reporting a fivefold return on their employee experience investments. That means that, for every $1 USD spent on employee experience investments, companies are seeing $5 USD back in increased employee productivity, organizational agility, and customer satisfaction.2

When you’re considering technology investments to benefit employees, the quality of the PC and how good the fit is for the way employees work matter. The experience with consumer-grade laptops for work is not as good as enterprise-grade devices because enterprise-grade equipment is typically more durable and more resilient, offers valuable features like fingerprint authentication for log in, and accommodates emerging technologies, such as Intel® Connectivity Performance Suite (ICPS) Wi-Fi 6E. 

Investing in modern devices means taking advantage of the latest capabilities offered by manufacturers, like faster, more reliable connectivity or longer battery life to enable remote work. A key consideration for device type is form factor, meaning laptops, 2-in-1s, or desktop workhorses. In all cases, you want to right-size the processor for compute power because the more powerful and updated your processor, the faster your computer can complete its tasks. Again, it is also important the IT team be able to empower remote and hybrid employees efficiently and effectively to support their experience with your organization.

Technology Solutions that Meet Today’s Employee Expectations

Other qualities that employees are looking for on their devices include rapid start up, lasting real-world battery life, collaborative productivity apps, reliable wireless accessories, a sleek and stylish form factor, and dynamic displays and visuals. To help IT decision makers more easily purchase standout business devices that align with today’s employee expectations, the Connection team can introduce you to Intel® Evo™ laptops.

Intel Evo laptops are designed from the ground up with employees on the go in mind, so they have the features today’s employees want from their PCs. User needs drive the innovation encompassed by Intel Evo devices, including remarkable responsiveness, an immersive visual experience, instant wake, and long-lasting battery life.

To help the IT team support remote workers with visibility into their devices, the Intel vPro® platform addresses enterprise concerns around performance, security, and PC fleet stability and manageability. The platform offers technologies such as Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) and Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel® EMA), which enable IT staff to remotely assess, monitor, repair, and update PCs quickly and efficiently, reducing downtime for IT and employees. These capabilities streamline IT processes, allowing IT staff to quickly fix any device issues employees may face when working remotely, which also improves the overall employee experience.

How to Begin Improving Employee Experience with Technology

Supporting the wellbeing and productivity of your employees by making smart technology investments attracts top talent and drives positive outcomes. When these investments are made with proper planning and execution, you can significantly reduce costs by shortening the purchasing and deployment processes, which enables employees to have more time and focus on mission-critical projects that grow the business. Connection’s team can help guide organizations in their purchasing decisions. We offer persona-based bundles that help you procure and deploy the hardware, software, and services your teams need to be successful. 

1. Intel Mobile Go-Getter Attitudes Study Q2 ’19. Base: US+PRC: Mobile Go-Getters: n=549.

2. “Invest in Employee Experience (EX), Drive Your Bottom Line Growth: Empower Your Employees With The Right Technology,” a Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper commissioned by Lenovo and Intel, October 2020,

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.

No product or component can be absolutely secure.

Your costs and results may vary.© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

TechSperience Episode 112: Hybrid Cloud... Oct 20, 2022 Connection

Research by IDC show that 90% of enterprises around the world are relying on a mix of on-premises, or dedicated, private clouds, as well as public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs. Data center cloud solutions need to change as business needs fluctuate. This episode covers the best practices of a hybrid cloud strategy featuring experts from Intel and Connection.

Host: James Hilliard
• Vijay Bandari, Cloud Solution Architect at Intel
• Steve Fowler, Cloud Solution Architect at Intel
• Kiran Agrahara, Cloud Solution Architect at Intel
• Kevin Slate, Senior Director of Cloud Services and at Connection

Show Notes:

[1:07] Where are we on the hybrid cloud journey? Now is the time to plan for “deliberate” cloud. Many enterprises fell into cloud to support remote working, but it’s a great time revisit hybrid and multi-cloud to understand scalability, workloads, and how to create a bridge between public and private.

[4:20] What’s the difference between hybrid cloud and multi-cloud? Essentially, it’s a matter of where the data lives. Understanding your needs and data compliances that you are trying to achieve will shed light on which approach is best.

[6:30] Are there enterprises that won’t need to leverage cloud at all? The future of compute does involve cloud but it’s a long-term marathon and requires a strategy. Compliance and data governance are critical in driving the cloud strategy. Companies that aren’t looking at cloud are typically dealing with a skilling issue. Even if you don’t have the expertise to handle it, that shouldn’t make you avoid adopting the cloud. You need to ensure you have the right infrastructure to fit your business model.

[11:18] How should I reset the cloud strategy? Your cloud journey starts at analyzing your inventory, being aware of your assets and requirements, and understanding where your data should go.

[14:37] What should teams consider when looking at their data? Understand the data silos you have and the data governance and compliance requirements your business needs to meet. Also revisit why you are on-prem/off-prem in the first place.

[19:45] Is the cloud secure? What should be considered to minimize risks? Security is misunderstood when it comes to hybrid cloud. Not every CSP is compliant across all verticals. There is a shared responsibility as the hybrid cloud is an extension of your own enterprise. Cloud is not less secure than on-premise. It just requires different strategies and approaches. Hyperscalers are generally more secure, but there are nuances for all organizations. And understanding those is crucial to minimizing security risks.

[24:48] How do I future-proof my hybrid cloud? Cloud is a fluid solution so its innately easy to future-proof. Be agnostic and open to different architectures. Build a control plane to leverage evolving cloud feature sets while having manageability.

[30:17] What are additional considerations we should be planning for? From the leadership point of view, pick a primary strategic provider to reduce integration and operational complexities. Tier your providers by level of support and capabilities as an internal guide. Have a cloud workload placement policy in place so that new applications are placed with the appropriate provider and avoid splitting applications across different providers when possible.

[33:26] How can you set your hybrid cloud strategy up for success? Know your workload placement and applications. Costs should not be a key driver in a hybrid cloud strategy. Anticipate moving from one cloud to another as your applications may scale.

[36:26] There are tools and expertise available out there to guide you through the process. Look for a partner that not only understands your industry, but one that will also take the time to learn your business, review your data affinities, and work with you on short-term and long-term strategies.

For more, check out the Intel Data Center Modernization blog.

You can hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, or Podbean. Follow Connection on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn.

Infection Control: Back to the Future Oct 18, 2022 Dr Keith Nelson

Remember when Purell was worth its weight in gold?  I think it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the average person acutely aware of the importance of infection control. But this issue has always been a top priority in the healthcare provider world. Healthcare associated infections (HAI), particularly in hospitals, represent an enormous financial burden on the nation’s healthcare system on the order of $35-$45 billion per year.  Accordingly, healthcare providers continue to look for more effective ways to combat the spread of infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, fungus, parasites) in their facilities. 

And why are healthcare facilities ground zero for infections?  Because they are the environment where sick and immunocompromised people routinely congregate, which makes them a metaphorical petri dish for infection spread and germ mutation. It is not uncommon for a patient to check into a hospital with a specific medical condition and then end up accidentally contracting an infection which seriously complicates their stay.  Further, the increased potential for mutation of debilitating microorganisms in hospitals can easily lead to the development of treatment-resistant disease strains like MRSA, VRE and CRE.

Creating a Safer Environment

When designing an infection control program, it is important to take a detailed and comprehensive ground-up approach, starting with evaluating human behavior and then expanding the sphere of focus to the physical environment. Listed below are a few considerations.

Behavioral Issues

  • Diligent Hand Washing (hand sanitizer dispensers should be abundant and strategically located throughout the facility)
    Some hand washing guidelines to consider:
    • For Providers: Upon entry to the facility.  Before and after interacting with each patient.  Before and after performing any invasive procedure. Before and after touching medical equipment.
    • For Patients, Visitors and Support Staff: Upon entry to the facility and patient-occupied areas
  • Wearing of Masks where appropriate (must cover the nose and be changed regularly)
  • Discarding Shoe Covers when exiting higher risk areas
  • Changing Scrubs before leaving the hospital and after being exposed to highly infected environments
  • Conscientious Waste Handling and Disposal (OSHA)
  • Prohibiting Employees from Working When They’re Sick

Physical Environment Issues


  • Anything that is shared (computers, tablets, telephones, scanners, communication devices, pens, printers, copy machines, cafeteria tables, etc.)
  • Personal electronic devices (especially those carried on and off premises)

Surfaces and Floors

  • Entire Rooms
  • Room Contents
  • Air
  • Countertops, Chairs/Tables, Thermostats, Door Handles, Hanging Fixtures, Equipment

Where to Start

There is an endless array of products and operational approaches for controlling the spread of pathogens in a healthcare (or any other) environment.  Designing an effective program is dependent upon several factors including the organization’s culture and workflows, available budget, and the ability to train staff and monitor human activity. Beyond establishing proper behavioral procedures, protocols and oversight, it is essential to explore the supportive role of advanced technology solutions. Below are a few examples.

Selecting the Right Hardware

Wherever possible, it is prudent to select hardware that is designed for infection control.  Examples include products with an antimicrobial housing (keyboards, mice, bar code scanners, monitors, etc.), or wipe-down capability that protects the device from abrasive disinfectant solutions. For touch screens, an electronic “time-out” function would protect data from being inadvertently altered during the cleaning process.

UV and Autonomous Robot Disinfecting

Ultraviolet light is an effective sterilizer and there are various products that leverage this technology for infection control.  Among these are boxes that simultaneously disinfect multiple smartphones and tablets, lamps that sterilize surfaces and keyboards, and powerful UV towers that can sterilize entire rooms.  For rooms that are constantly occupied, there are UV devices that mount near the ceiling and project horizontally above people’s heads in order to sterilize the circulating air (as opposed to surfaces), and alternative devices that project a lower frequency UV wave that is harmless to humans. In all cases, line-of-sight applies where the surface of the target must be exposed to the light source in order to be disinfected.

Another solution is the use of inexpensive, fully autonomous robots that strategically and consistently spray the room and its contents with disinfectant, an option that is particularly compelling in situations where staffing is constrained.

Handwashing Oversight

In order to ensure that staff are diligently following handwashing protocols, technology sensors are available that strategically alert/remind the provider, as well as record, analyze and report handwashing compliance on an individual level.

Overhang from COVID-19

Other infection control measures that can be employed, perhaps on a seasonal basis, are those that became ubiquitous during the COVID pandemic, including temperature checks and contact tracing.


Finally, bringing things full-circle, the most important component of infection control is changing human behavior. The best way to achieve this is to advance persistent and mandatory education in addition to giving continuous performance feedback. Thanks to the pandemic, we have now been awakened to the previously underappreciated war against the unrelenting evolutionary army of microbes and the serious consequences at stake. Hopefully, we’ll use the knowledge we’ve so painfully gained to proactively seize the high ground and reduce or prevent future threats to our well being.

Cybersecurity Awareness Podcast: Spotlight... Oct 17, 2022 Connection

Colleges and universities are prime targets for cyber attackers. From the large volumes of PII to medical and research data; higher education institutions are a gold mine for bad actors. The pandemic also added new attack vectors as institutions turned to remote and hybrid learning environments. CISOs, CTOs, and IT teams within higher education have a very challenging task when it comes to cybersecurity and data protection. With open networks, diverse user types, and limited resources, what can colleges and universities do to enhance protection? Listen to this podcast for tips on how to develop a cybersecurity risk management plan for your institution.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Bobby Sears, Senior Vertical Alliances Manager, Higher Education at Connection
  • Steve Nardone, Senior Director of Security and Network Solutions at Connection
  • Tim Allen, Director of Operations and Technology at Connection

Show Notes:

[1:25] Universities and colleges are seeing an increasing number of cyberattacks due to their data-rich networks. There is recognition among the industry that data governance policies are needed to protect PII. Now is the time to reset plans to mitigate cyber risks.

[7:13] Approximately 74% of ransomware attacks launched in higher education are successful. Access to networks need to remain open to support learning environments, but institutions struggle with limiting access and identifying bad actors. Many institutions are paying out ransoms but not getting all their data back in return. Data backup systems and processes can be put into place but that is a reactive solution.

[10:42] Private universities typically have stronger cybersecurity programs in place whereas some universities must make some tough decisions when it comes to budgeting. The good news is that any improvement is better than not doing anything at all and there are ways to prioritize the areas of greatest risks.

[15:03] Managed capabilities can help stop attacks before they happen. There needs to be constant monitoring of the network to look for suspicious activity. Universities and colleges should also implement network segmentation to make sure the most critical data is protected with stricter access controls.

[17:56] Because institutions are being attacked regularly, implementing a Zero Trust approach can greatly benefit. Conduct third-party penetration testing to find vulnerable points of access.

[22:42] There aren’t enough cybersecurity experts in the industry. Leverage students enrolled in cybersecurity programs to help nurture their professional development. Have them conduct pen testing.

[24:00] Set a risk baseline and develop a roadmap for the future. Include your networks, business continuity and disaster recovery plans, edge security, and identity access control. This will also help you prioritize your risks and limited resources.

[29:00] Cyber risk management is top of mind for many colleges and universities. There’s lots of opportunities to strengthen your cybersecurity program. Connection can support you wherever you are on your journey, including conducting a Security Landscape Optimization assessment to get your team started.

Visit our Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage for more resources. You can also hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, or Podbean.

Embrace Proactive Security with Modern... Oct 13, 2022 Krysten Harper

In an effort to protect data and accounts from the increasing number of attacks leveraging basic authentication protocols, effective October 1, 2022, Microsoft will begin disabling basic authentication access for Exchange Online. Since the initial announcement back in 2019, millions of Exchange Online users have proactively transitioned to modern authentication.

What does this mean and why does this matter?

Basic Authentication

Basic authentication (also referred to as legacy authentication) is a widely used, industry-standard framework used to validate a request to reach a server. An example of basic authentication is logging into an app or website with only a username and password. Since usernames and passwords are sent across the network in an unencrypted form, applications and websites are able to store your credentials within their settings, which means if their site is compromised, your credentials are compromised. Another disadvantage of basic authentication is that it is not integrated with multi-factor authentication (MFA), which provides an additional layer of protection against compromised usernames and passwords. While username-and-password-based authentication is widely used, it is significantly less secure than other methods. A recent Microsoft study found that 99% of password spray attacks leverage the presence of basic authentication.

Modern Authentication

Modern authentication (also known as OAuth 2.0 token-based authentication) is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of different authentication and authorization methods. Most importantly, though, is the fact that modern authentication doesn’t pass Microsoft 365 account credentials to apps or websites. Instead, they only process a browser token issued by a trusted authentication provider such as Azure AD. When the user securely authenticates to the authentication provider, gets their token, and provides it to the website or application, they gain access because the application also trusts the same authentication provider, and thus trusts the token. Unlike basic authorization, modern authorization does enable the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA), adding yet another layer of security. Modern authentication methods can include security tokens, certificates, fingerprints, iris scans, or smartphones.

The Shift Toward Zero Trust

Zero trust is a “trust no one, verify everything” security strategy with three core principles: verify explicitly, use least privileged access, and assume breach. Every access is fully authenticated, authorized, and encrypted before being granted. As a user, this means you will only see and be able to access the applications that are relevant to you. Think of it like being given a temporary guest pass when visiting an office building. You check in at the front desk, verify your identity, and state who you are there to see. The receptionist issues you a guest pass that will only open the doors that need to be opened in order to get you where you need to go. If you try to access an unauthorized area, either intentionally or by accident, your pass will not open the door. To avoid the possibility of guest passes falling into the wrong hands, the pass is returned to the front desk and deactivated at the end of your visit. By disabling basic authentication in Exchange Online in favor of modern authentication, Microsoft continues to push towards a future built on zero-trust initiatives.

Why Does This Matter?

As cybercriminals continue to evolve and become more advanced in their attacks, Microsoft is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of transitioning away from basic authentication methods. A recent analysis by Microsoft showed that customers who have disabled basic authentication experienced 67% fewer compromises than those who haven’t. With 84% of companies experiencing an identity-related breach in 2022, safeguarding identities is something that should be at the top of every organization’s priority list.

This shift to modern authentication requires that every app, program, or service connected to Microsoft 365 authenticates itself. If actions are not taken, all applications using basic authentication to access Exchange Online will stop working. If you are ready to improve your tenants’ protection and begin disabling and blocking basic authentication, you can do this with conditional access. As always, your Connection resources are here to help. Reach out to your Account Manager or Account Executive to learn more.

Cybersecurity Awareness Podcast: Spotlight... Oct 12, 2022 Connection

K-12 is a highly targeted sector when it comes to cyberthreats. In a recent report by CoSN, cybersecurity is a top priority among CTOs. Remote and hybrid environments have drastically increased the volume of devices to support the needs of educators and students. And each device is a potential point of entry for bad actors. There’s also a lot of PII available on these networks, making school districts a prime target for data breaches and ransomware. Listen to this podcast to learn what school districts can do to enhance cybersecurity measures.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Pam Aulakh, Vertical Alliances Manager, K-12 at Connection
  • Steve Nardone, Senior Director of Security and Network Solutions at Connection
  • Tim Allen, Director of Operations and Technology at Connection

Show Notes:

[2:55] While there were large volumes of devices that were added to school and home networks, the number of IT staff didn’t increase. Often, districts have a single IT resource.

[4:30] A ransomware attack can disable access, causing students to lose hours of education they need. Many districts struggle with having the processes and training in place to minimize the likelihood of staff clicking on phishing emails, but it’s the key to frontline protection.

[7:56] Are apps the reason why districts are seeing large volumes of ransomware attacks? Apps certainly add another layer of complexity to cybersecurity. If they were developed without the right security in place, bad actors can certainly use them to gain access to network data. Districts use anywhere from two to 700 apps. But teachers are also using apps outside of what is being provided.

[12:22] There are multiple platforms that can be leveraged: open source vs. Software as a Service. Either approach can be effective if there are appropriate security measures in place. Patching and maintaining those apps can be a big undertaking. Schools have a large, diverse set of audiences. Security is not at the forefront among students so sharing logins easily lead to compromised credentials.

[16:50] Cross departmental collaboration is important. Procurement, IT, and Legal should work together to vet apps and software thoroughly and have protocols in place to not allow unapproved applications on the network.

[18:13] Districts are required to secure student data: Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and meeting E-rate funding requirements. But there is a lot more that should be done to keep data safe. These regulations and protocols also don’t capture emerging technologies so it is critical districts develop these standards.

[21:07] The concept of Zero-Trust should be explored to help understand the full threat landscape. It’s a holistic, mindset approach. Conduct a gap analysis to help prioritize your vulnerability points.

[25:00] What are some resources that districts can leverage today? CISA and CoSN have many resources and reports available for K-12. Leverage surrounding school districts to collect best practices and strategies. Use these resources to develop an ongoing cybersecurity awareness and training program for staff and teachers.

[32:15] What can parents do? Start teaching your kids best practices when browsing online. Teach them about how much is safe to share on social media and how to spot cyberbullying and what to do if they witness it. Have them keep software updated on their devices. Explain why it is important to be skeptical about sources of information and phishing emails that seem too good to be true. Partner with your school district for student resources.

Visit our Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage for more resources. You can also hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, or Podbean.

Industrialize Your AI for Maximum Return on... Oct 11, 2022 Connection

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming businesses through automated, scalable problem-solving. However, it can be a complex process to move AI models from proven concept to production-grade deployment. And the AI models only begin to add value to an organization once they are deployed and in production. So how do you maximize your return on investment (ROI) when it comes to AI in your organization?

While organizations today are committed to furthering their AI initiatives to meet business targets, many organizations get stuck in the process. The reasons range from manual or customized time-intensive development processes to too-lean experimentation to unsupportive enterprise data infrastructure to nonexistent strategies for production scale to lack of collaboration between product teams, data scientists, and operations staff. A recent study noted that 18 percent of surveyed business decision makers said it takes more than three months to deploy a new AI model into production, which is when it can deliver value back to the organization.1 Even more, only 47 percent of AI projects make it out of experimentation to be operationalized into production.2

Introducing MLOps

A similar dilemma faced software development 20 years ago. The solution then was to standardize and automate application development, deployment, and management to enable IT teams to more easily release and manage software delivery and quality with efficiency. In other words, DevOps was born, marrying development with operations.

Likewise, today’s opportunity with AI has introduced machine learning operations, or MLOps, to industrialize AI model experimentation, development, and deployment at scale. MLOps can help unlock the business value of AI sooner by fast-tracking and orchestrating AI innovation, workflows, and production at scale. MLOps also supports AI production by monitoring quality, managing regulatory requirements, and ensuring continuous improvement processes are in place.

Infrastructure Is the Foundation for AI and MLOps

While MLOps can help industrialize your AI for production to maximize your ROI, there are best practices to get the most from MLOps. Operations, in this case, means considering potential issues in your technology and critical infrastructure to ensure smooth, secure operations.

The technical foundation for AI has two parts. The first is the technology that can gather and synthesize data from across the organization, from workstation to edge to cloud. The second is the technology that allows the value of that data analysis to be unlocked by business users for insights in near-real time.

Red flags to look for in your technology ecosystem include:

  • Latency in processing, which could indicate a need for additional compute power
  • Insufficient memory and data storage capabilities, which may be resolved by one or more cloud technologies
  • Cybersecurity gaps, which can be improved with hardware-based solutions

There are powerful tools from software vendors and the open source community available today—including from,, Databricks, and SAS—that offer such open source tools as Kubeflow, Metaflow, Kedro, and MLflow. These tools have low-code options in their data workflow that help ease AI adoption and increase speed to production. For example, from Intel can help operationalize AI faster while ensuring the right infrastructure is in place.

Whatever your industry and current journey with AI knowledge and projects, you can maximize your ROI by working with an MLOps approach to industrialize your AI initiatives and ensure your technology infrastructure has the optimal foundation to generate value as quickly as possible.

The experts at Connection can offer solutions to simplify your AI technology lifecycle seamlessly and affordably. Connect with our industry experts, or read more about AI trends and solutions.

1. “2020 state of enterprise machine learning,” Algorithmia, 2019,

2. Jessica Davis, “Getting Machine Learning into Production: MLOps,” InformationWeek, June 26, 2019,

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.

No product or component can be absolutely secure.

Your costs and results may vary.

© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Cybersecurity Awareness Podcast: Spotlight... Oct 10, 2022 Connection

The pandemic, smart manufacturing initiatives, and Industry 4.0 trends have shifted manufacturing into digital transformation. As such, the industry is now experiencing a dramatic uptick in ransomware attacks. The majority of these attacks target operational technology (OT) systems by gaining access through compromised home networks and the devices of remote workers. Manufacturing organizations have highly complex infrastructure and environments. Having an accurate picture of security vulnerabilities is a challenge in itself. Listen to this podcast to explore how manufacturing organizations can mitigate their cybersecurity risks and find a more secure path forward.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Ryan Spurr, Director of Manufacturing Strategy at Connection
  • Steve Nardone, Senior Director of Security and Network Solutions at Connection
  • Tim Allen, Director of Operations and Technology at Connection

[1:18] Manufacturing is the highest targeted industry when it comes to ransomware attacks. Manufacturing is seen as an attractive industry for malicious actors as it plays a critical role in supply-chain and hosts a range of intellectual property such as R&D, unique processes, and proprietary equipment.

[2:50] Legacy technologies and devices are major vulnerability points. Many manufacturing organizations have been around for decades. Over time, factory expansions and upgrades happen. But with this long-term growth, a lifecycle strategy needs to be in place to help manage risks effectively. If the average lifespan is three to five years for most devices, there should be processes in place to proactively manage these assets.

[5:55] In manufacturing, the main type of cyberattack is related to operational technology (OT). Because workers are accessing data remotely, many ransomware attacks are taking advantage of compromised home networks and devices. There has been a 2,204% increase in reconnaissance against OT in 2021, according to IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index Report.

[8:02] The biggest hurdle for manufacturing organizations is working across different teams and departments to understand the full scope of their infrastructure. This is a requirement to develop the optimal cybersecurity risk strategy.

[10:00] Legacy equipment is often the easiest point of entry for a cyberattack. Securing or segmenting the networks for these assets should be a priority.

[10:56] People and culture are essential to cybersecurity. Everyone plays an important role. Each department leader should partner with IT and security.

[14:46] The industry is seeing a rapid speed of change. The pandemic, workforce shortage, and supply chain impacts have dramatically shifted the adoption of digital technologies to support hybrid/remote work environments.

[19:00] There are three main elements to a cybersecurity program. First is getting full visibility of your infrastructure. Next is developing ways to protect or defend your network. And lastly, have a means to continuously monitor for potential threats.

[20:29] If you are unsure where your risks are, be sure to prioritize systems that can’t be patched or updated by segmenting the network onto different domains. Conduct penetration testing, both internal and external. This should be done by a third-party expert to get the full scale of your vulnerabilities. Utilizing an assessment, such as a Security Landscape Optimization, may also be helpful to help prioritize your risks.

[26:00] Based on recent data, the manufacturing industry is highly targeted by cybercriminals. As such, cyber insurance companies are now scrutinizing coverage and are requiring organizations to provide proof of a mature cybersecurity approach. It’s a matter of when and how often when it comes to cyberthreats in the manufacturing space.

Visit our Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage for more resources. You can also hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, or Podbean.

Warehouse Operations: It’s Time to Level Up Oct 06, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Every manufacturer deals with workforce shortages, turnover, training, and the constant need to improve productivity. And it’s not just a focus in the factory. While the challenges are different, warehouse teams strive to retain workers, ramp up new hires, and drive productivity to keep up with worker shortages and increased demand. 

Where do you turn when your warehouse is understaffed? How do you keep up with customer demand and growth objectives? How do you eke out a bit more productivity from the existing warehouse team? 

There has to be a better way forward… and there is. What if I said you could speed up warehouse employee training from days to 25 minutes or improve picking accuracy to 99%? Would that be enough reason to change the process and invest in new warehouse technology? 

Ditch the Paper—and Go Digital

If you’re using a paper picking process—stop! The truth is that many organizations still do this, and it amazes me when I see it. Manual picking processes are fraught with inefficiencies, human error, and non-value-added transactions in the warehouse or back office. Simply moving away from paper picking to leverage digital transactions in your existing ERP or WMS will improve productivity, inventory accuracy, and the timeliness of the data you, sales, and your clients depend upon when fulfilling orders. You might not be ready for the latest and greatest—and that’s fine—but it’s time to take that next maturity step to create a digital warehouse.

We Need Something Better: Upgrade Your Old Tech

While most organizations have moved on from paper-based warehouse operations, many are still utilizing a decades-old technology: scanners. Although improvements have been made in this area, using scanners means you’re still relying on less efficient processes and additional human actions. Due to the size of screens and the way most warehouses pick, teams continue to utilize pick sheets, pen and paper, and a manual process for picking and stacking. 

While this approach improves traditional paper picking, it doesn’t address the human element of picking. People are still not hands-free and continue to depend on pick sheets and institutional knowledge collected over time. 

There is also the general goal of productivity and scale. For example, if your business grows, how do you scale with your workforce? Can you make your existing workforce more productive? How do you deal with new hires? Can you take a new hire and make them productive on the same day? 

The technology must address business systems, ergonomics, actual employee usage, and the challenges of a dynamic labor market.

What Technology Upgrades Are Available?

Believe it or not, there are many options to trade up to. Each depends on your culture, workforce, and your business’s unique operations. These solutions can bring value and—in some cases—compound to bring significant productivity improvements when used together.

Forklifts are core to many warehouse operations and one of our more popular topic of customer conversations. How can you modernize forklift operations? Well, it’s pretty straightforward, but the answer largely depends on how your employees operate. Do they sit in the saddle all day? Do they get off the forklift to pick and place items on a pallet? Do you expect your employees also to take training or collaborate when not actively driving? Do you scan license plates at long distances? Understanding how you operate today and how you would like to operate in the future contributes much to which technology is recommended for forklift operations.

In reality, most manufacturers are replacing legacy forklift solutions with rugged tablets, wireless scanners, and in some cases, using a single smart scanner that provides versatility in saddle or out. Whichever device best fits your use cases, these devices also act as a platform for other job functions, including collaboration, feedback or continuous improvement, access to human resources, and training. 

Voice Picking
Voice picking utilizes a headset with a microphone and earpiece. This allows warehouse employees to interact via voice with the business systems and pick lists. The system verbally instructs employees on what to pick next, and the employee confirms pick completions verbally before proceeding to the following items. Reducing reliance on institutional knowledge and delivering a hands-free solution, voice-picking solutions can lower turnover by 15-30%, reduce new hire training by up to 50%, and even reduce safety incidents by 5-20%.

Visual Picking
Similar to voice picking, visual picking systems leverage augmented reality headsets to visually display picking instructions, quantities, and even visual queues for where picked items should be stacked or placed (this all depends on how you place picked items). One of the positive aspects of visual picking is its ability to convey multiple pieces of information simultaneously. This makes it both intuitive for new hires, improves productivity, and can reduce picking defects by ensuring products are placed in the appropriate locations. Together, these benefits can achieve a 10-35% increase in picking performance, improving the bottom line.

Automated Shipping Verification and Notification
In addition to picking and staging, another form of automation includes advanced supply chain notifications (ASNs) or order verification. This is not new and has been in use for years. It’s based on the concept of tagging finished goods with passive RFID labels. As these goods are staged on pallets and associated with customer orders, it facilitates a variety of automation steps. 

First, as a pallet passes through a check point or dock doors, it automatically compares the products against the order to ensure order accuracy. Second, all transactions that employees might typically do (inventory movements, customer order completion, back office financial transactions, etc.) can be triggered and automated. This can be a robust improvement for the shipping department and finance, which can automate invoicing processes. 

It’s also important to point out that some manufacturers may be mandated to implement such systems through contract terms with large retailers like Walmart or Amazon. In addition to compliance, these platforms can bring additional benefits, such as minimizing chargebacks. 

Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs)
The robot platforms will not pick for you but will augment your workforce in several positive ways. AMRs can improve safety, minimize routine physical activities, address workforce shortages, and transport finished goods within the warehouse or line side stock into the factory. 

AMRs also come in many shapes and sizes, a versatile solution for any organization looking to integrate mobile robots into their existing operations, whether your teams use bins, containers, pallet jacks, racks, trolleys, or totes.

Companies that have implemented AMRs in their warehouse operations have seen up to 15% reduced overtime spending, 100% improvement in picker productivity, and reduced headcount and operational supply spending by 50%.

Unburden Your Warehouse

In manufacturing, many headwinds affect the workforce, productivity, and the ability to support business growth. Warehousing has a significant role to play in the company’s performance, and with so many new and proven technologies, many paths toward improvement. With many opportunities, warehouse operations is a great place to consider investing in how employees get work done.Connection believes there is always a better way to equip your warehouse workforce and drive continuous process improvement. If you’re interested in learning more, engage with a partner who will take the time to understand your business objectives and assist in selecting the right warehouse technologies to fit your unique business situation.

Cybersecurity Awareness Podcast: Spotlight... Oct 03, 2022 Connection

The value of patient medical information makes healthcare entities prime targets for cybercriminals. According to IBM’s 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a healthcare data breach is $10.1 million, the highest across all industries. With many healthcare providers expanding beyond the four walls into remote and virtual care, now is the time evolve your organization’s cybersecurity posture. Hear from our cybersecurity and healthcare experts on what practices will help you better protect your patients’ data and healthcare practice.

Host: James Hilliard


  • Dr. Keith Nelson, Director of Healthcare Strategy at Connection
  • Steve Nardone, Senior Director of Security and Network Solutions at Connection
  • Tim Allen, Director of Operations and Technology at Connection

Show Notes:

[1:00] Malicious actors are continuing to grow in skill and sophistication, but the good news is that we are also getting smarter when it comes to understanding phishing and social engineering.

[2:37] Technology is getting better when it comes to data protection, but the integration of technologies can be challenging. Improvements are needed to ensure security gaps are minimized between various technologies.

[5:10] Providers have been financially strained due to the pandemic. As such, cybersecurity has not been on the investment priority list. Ransomware or other data breach attacks can lead to harmful impacts – from financial, reputational, and operational as well as from the compliance perspective (HIPAA). The new world of virtual care and monitoring is adding another layer of complexity. Cloud security is also in the forefront as more institutions are moving to cloud environments.

[8:12] Prioritizing strategies to mitigate these cybersecurity threats can be challenging. In healthcare, people’s lives are at risk. Adopting a Zero-Trust framework is key. Nothing should be trusted. Focus on ways to protect data while minimizing the attack surfaces.

[12:52] Affecting behavioral change is always a challenge. Training or awareness programs and cybersecurity practices should not be a hindrance. Strategies need to be efficient and non-invasive so practitioners can focus on patient care.

[15:52] Design strategies around business operations rather than practices. Systems need to be more comprehensive to effectively offer protection. Often, this entails managed services and monitoring rather than relying on staff.

[19:40] There are some basic strategies that can go a long way to data protection such as instilling the need for complex passwords, having multi-factor authentication, and encouraging employees to verify emails and attachments.

[21:41] Updating software is one of the biggest gaps from the IT perspective. Systems get outdated and need to be patched regularly and systematically. Real-time monitoring and early detection of anomalies is a must.

[26:00] What can healthcare teams do to enhance cybersecurity immediately?

  1. Continual employee awareness and training
  2. Test your environment, internally and externally
  3. Implement regular patching updates and isolate systems that are not easy to patch
  4. Have an incident response plan in place to minimize the impact

Visit our Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage for more resources. You can also hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, or Podbean.

The Cybersecurity Roadmap to a Safer Future Oct 03, 2022 Stephen Nardone

Organizations all over the globe are challenged with combating the massive increase in cyberattacks head on. Whether it be nation- or state-sponsored cybercrime or just your general nuisance hacker, the challenge is daunting. If you have services connected to the Internet, you are at high-risk of compromise. You most likely have heard, “It is not a matter of IF, and it is not even a matter of WHEN. You may have already been breached, and you just don’t know it yet.” In fact, 83% of organizations have had more than one data breach and 17% of the breaches that happened in 2021 were not first-time occurrences.1

Prioritizing Your Cybersecurity Risks

With the new Executive Order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity and the focus on zero trust across government and commercial industries, many organizations need assistance with determining their level of risks and creating a prioritized roadmap to mitigate those risks. After all, organizations spend millions of dollars on cybersecurity and risk protection. But is that spend making them more secure?

To build an effective risk governance program, you need to understand and document your current risks. In other words, you need to know what you don’t know about your overall security ecosystem and the inherent risks it contains. But how can you start the process and identify priorities with limited resources?

Start the Journey with a Security Landscape Optimization Tool

A Security Landscape Optimization (SLO) assessment is a way to get everything you need in a simplified document that scores and prioritizes your ecosystem risk. The cybersecurity professionals at Connection work with your security and IT teams to determine where you have technology, process, or policy risks. This is compiled into a highly visual heat map style tool, representing a baseline security risk overview of your ecosystem across four main categories:

  1. Endpoint/End-user Security
  2. Network and Data Security
  3. Operational Security
  4. Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) and Procedures
Baseline Security Snapshot

The team then takes the results, analyzes it for criticality and priority, and prepares a comprehensive report. This includes step-by-step risk mitigation planning along with recommendations on technology, processes, and policies that should be implemented. This is accomplished in a rapid three- to four-week cycle. The SLO also provides guidance and strategy to address cybersecurity insurance requirements as well as the fundamental architecture components required for zero trust. It fits well with other planning such as ISO 27001 or NIST 800-53 security management.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues to build momentum and impact with the goal of providing everyone with the information they need to stay safer and more secure. We hope you take a moment to reset and re-evaluate your cybersecurity strategies to best prepare for what may come.

If you are struggling to find the path to an organized and effective cybersecurity program, explore the Security Landscape Optimization tool or reach out to the team at Connection. You can also visit our Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage to discover more resources, blogs, and podcasts.

1 Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, 2022, Cost of a Data Breach Report.
Adopting a Zero Trust Cybersecurity Model Oct 03, 2022 Stephen Nardone

The recent shifts from in-person to online or hybrid environments has forced organizations to reexamine their cybersecurity practices and protocols. Keeping information and data safe has been more challenging as teams navigate vulnerabilities in our new digital world.

83% of organizations have had
more than one data breach.

Source: Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, 2022, Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Zero Trust and Zero Trust Architecture are concepts that have been around in the information technology and security industry for many years now. It is becoming more prevalent in conversations across all industries, especially in the government sector. It is also becoming a topic of conversation for small-to-mid-market corporations as well. Cyber insurance companies, standards and certifications organizations, the recent Executive Order, and managed services companies all point to the fact that Zero Trust is the critical measure of effective cybersecurity protection, detection, and reaction.

What Is Zero Trust?

Let’s start with the definition of zero. The numerical symbol “0” means the absence of all size or quantity. So, in essence, Zero Trust is the approach of having no trust and the need to continuously verify. In addition to investing in security protection technology, you must believe the “bad guy” is already on the inside of your environment, potentially sitting dormant until the right opportunity emerges.

Let’s be clear, Zero Trust does not prevent breaches. But it does provide a framework for ensuring—when fully implemented—a reduction of the impact of a breach. This is done by identifying the breach and shutting it down quickly. Zero Trust requires the implementation and management of:

  • Security framework with guiding principles
  • Workflow, system design, and operations
  • Defined policies, information security practices, and resiliency practices
  • Technology working in concert with process and people
  • Continuous monitoring, detection, and mitigation

Three Key Elements: People, Process, and Technology

You will note that humans, technology, policy, and process are all key components of Zero Trust. Not just physical devices and software. You cannot buy Zero Trust out of a box, and you cannot just implement any level of technology alone and achieve it. The key criteria to achieve Zero Trust is continuous detection and mitigation against attack, whether from the outside or inside. People, process, and technology need to be in lockstep! This applies whether users are on internal and approved networks, whether the user is an approved employee, whether the user’s asset was configured and issued by the corporate Information Technology team, and—of course—whether the user is connecting from outside of the approved network or not.  

In addition, all sessions between users and resources must be uniquely identified and authorized. This means an employee, or a process, or a service session connecting to a corporate resource in the environment or the cloud, must successfully pass the discrete function of authentication and authorization. This authorization must also be monitored continuously for changes in behavior, or subsequent connection requests.

59% of organizations have not deployed a
Zero Trust security architecture.

Source: Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, 2022, Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Start Your Zero Trust Journey

As you can see, Zero Trust is not simple to achieve. It will take a well-defined plan, selecting the right technology, and developing the right processes. It will require a phased implementation to ensure the necessary people, process, and technology are all working in concert guarantee continuous detection and mitigation is achieved. And it won’t happen overnight. Zero Trust is a long-term roadmap to cybersecurity.

As a first step, having a Security Landscape Optimization assessment completed will give you a snapshot of your entire ecosystem along with risk scores. This "roadmap" will help you focus your resources on the areas where attention is most needed. Connection has a team of architects, consultants, and engineers to help you achieve the next level of security. Visit our Cybersecurity Awareness Month webpage to discover more resources.

Safety First: How Samsung’s Inertia Mobile... Sep 30, 2022 Taylor Mallory Holland

As warehouses increasingly equip forklifts and other industrial vehicles with mounted rugged tablets, they’re experiencing a wide range of benefits—from streamlined paperless workflows to wayfinding to real-time inventory. But distracted driving can be just as dangerous on a warehouse floor as it is on the road.

There are currently about 855,900 forklifts in operation in the U.S. Roughly 11 percent of them are involved in an accident each year—resulting in 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatalities. If forklift drivers are suddenly distracted by tablet screens, those numbers could start to rise.

That’s why Samsung SDS developed Inertia, a new mobile solution that helps industrial truck operators use tablets to work more efficiently and effectively, without dangerous distractions.

Why Tablets Are Trending in Manufacturing
Over the last couple years, businesses have struggled to meet demand amid significant talent shortages and supply chain disruptions. Forward-thinking manufacturers have continued to modernize warehouses and factory floors—including their forklifts, tuggers, stackers, hi-los, and other vehicles.

Mounting tablets on forklifts helps drivers move seamlessly from one task to another. With the right software integrations, drivers can view tasks, find the most efficient route to wherever they need to go and scan pallets—without getting off the forklift. Rather than leafing through printed order lists (which quickly become outdated) or answering frequent walkie-talkie calls with new pickup requests, drivers get all the information they need in real time and from one device. 

The Inertia solution makes sure these tablets are used safely, only when vehicles are not in motion.

How Inertia Works
Inertia is a simple and highly impactful solution designed for mounted Samsung devices in manufacturing environments. When a vehicle is in motion, the device locks down and the screen goes blank until the driver comes to a complete stop.

It features different configuration levels that can be customized for different vehicles and different types of surfaces, so sensors on the device can distinguish between vibrations and actual movement. When drivers need information, they pull over, and the tablet is immediately available to them. As soon as they start moving, the tablet goes to sleep.

3 Benefits of Inertia

1. Fewer Accidents
Inertia is a relatively new solution, but it has already been implemented by several large manufacturing facilities, including a leading global automobile manufacturer. Before deploying Inertia, this business had two or three distracted driving-related incidents per month. Now, these accidents are nonexistent.

2. Lower Costs
As of January 2022, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines businesses up to $14,502 per safety violation, and up to $145,027 for repeated violations. Industrial vehicle accidents cost even more, especially when you factor in equipment repairs and workers’ compensation. In 2020, forklifts alone caused 7,290 nonfatal injuries requiring multiple days away from work, with an average 17 missed days per person injured.

3. Easy to Deploy
Similar tools often require external cameras and additional sensors, whereas Inertia is self-contained and requires no third-party peripherals. Using it is as simple as installing software on Samsung tablets. The solution can be deployed quickly across fleets of industrial vehicles.

Deploy at Scale and Protect Your Investment

For large or multilocation manufacturers, even a simple solution can be time consuming to deploy if someone from IT has to manually install, configure, and update each device. Samsung Knox Suite lets businesses remotely manage and configure devices and software, pushing updates to individual devices, groups of devices, or entire fleets all at once.

To help manufacturers deploy safe mobile solutions quickly and at scale, Samsung offers a bundle that includes Inertia, Knox Suite, and Galaxy Tab Active3. Durable enough to meet MIL-STD-810H military standards for rugged devices, Galaxy Tab Active3 is well suited to manufacturing environments, and it can be fixed on forklift mounts. Enhanced touch capability allows the tablet to be used with gloves or in wet weather. And the S Pen—IP68 rated for dust, dirt, and water resistance—helps replace paper and clipboards.

Mobilizing industrial vehicle operations is a key step in modernizing manufacturing, but digital transformation should never come at a safety risk. Inertia is a simple, low-cost solution that manufacturers can deploy quickly to help create a safer workplace. To learn more about Samsung’s manufacturing solutions, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice today. 

TechSperience Episode 111: Mobility... Sep 30, 2022 Connection

Mobile technologies play a critical role in today’s digital world. While there’s a big focus on our remote and hybrid workforce, there are many industries that have frontline employees. This podcast explores how mobile technologies have evolved since the pandemic—from the employee and customer experience point of view—across healthcare, retail, hospitality, warehousing, and manufacturing industries.

Host: James Hilliard

Guest: Terry Price, Senior Sales Engineer, Zebra Technologies

Show Notes: 

[1:20] Mobile contact tracing and tracking technologies have taken off since COVID. In-person industries had to implement social distancing practices and set maximum capacity limits to minimize potential exposure.

[3:03] Serviceability for customers has drastically changed in the last few years. Customers expect instant gratification and convenience. Mobile technologies have become more necessary as we are quickly becoming a cashless society.

[8:09] Ease of use and manageability are also at the forefront for consumers. It’s key to leverage mobile technologies that use a “common” operating system, such as Android, to deliver a streamlined interface that users are familiar with.

[10:17] Healthcare workers require more out of their mobile devices than any other industry. Healthcare practitioners rely on technologies for patient care and life-and-death scenarios. These use cases require ruggedized mobile technologies that are fast and efficient.

[13:20] Disinfectant-ready devices are must-haves in healthcare. Retail and hospitality industries followed suit by adopting healthcare-grade devices.

[15:07] For many industries, ruggedized devices are critical, but decision-makers are sometimes hesitant on the upfront investment. A consumer-grade device will likely require more replacements and overall management. Ruggedized devices will result in an overall lower total cost of ownership.

[19:00] Each industry defines cybersecurity in different terms. For instance, in healthcare, HIPAA compliance requires that data cannot be stored on the device itself. Zebra works with software companies to develop solutions that can meet or exceed cybersecurity requirements and needs.

[23:49] How can a business start a mobile-first transformation? Determine the wireless and physical security infrastructure needed, find the right technologies that can elevate the employee and customer experience, and partner with experts to guide you through the process.

You can hear us on Apple Podcasts, Amazon MusicSpotify, or Podbean. Follow Connection on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn.

Success Story: Microsoft Licensing Renewal... Sep 29, 2022 Makayla Mota

When it came time to start thinking about their Microsoft renewal, Eric Hart, Director of IT at PING, had a few things he needed to consider. First, he wanted to increase security, and second, he wanted to provide the manufacturing staff with Microsoft 365 licenses. PING, one of the most popular and innovative golf brands in the world, is family-owned and based in Phoenix, AZ, with additional offices in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada. Their sales team has always been located throughout the world, but, like so many companies, they’ve become more of a hybrid working environment over the past few years. To reach their goals and make sure they were getting the best support possible, Eric reached out to Connection and was put in touch with Account Manager Joe Truman, Microsoft Solutions Specialist Anthony Ruffo, and Strategic Software Consultant Megan Schaller. 

“The Connection team provided a really great comparison. What I liked about Joe, Megan, and Anthony is that they really listened, and we could focus on the things we needed to talk through,” Eric says.

Enhancing Security for Hybrid Working

The focus for this project was their security posture. They had security pieces from their previous contract, but with more employees working in a hybrid fashion, Eric was interested in seeing what was offered and what the cost would be to have a more unified system. Having already transitioned their email to the cloud and their phone system to Teams for voice calls, PING was on course to creating a more modern and cloud-friendly environment—which meant being more vigilant with their security. Because they also make physical products, a large portion of their staff is in the building working in manufacturing. Traditionally, they were not set up for digital communication, and Eric was also looking to increase that capability to decrease paper use and drive efficiency. 

“We knew they didn’t need to provide the entire productivity suite, so we looked at Microsoft’s Frontline Worker solution. One of the decision points was if we needed to provide a mailbox or not. We also didn’t want to limit our security options,” he says. “In working with Megan and Anthony, we were able to define our goals, and they presented the Microsoft solutions that accomplished those goals. Our discussions were able to be much more focused and productive. We said, ‘Okay, these are the goals we want to accomplish. Which solution goes with that goal? And what security do we wrap on top of it?’ Megan and Anthony were able to help us through the decision-making process, rather than making assumptions about what we needed. Three years had passed since we did a renewal, so things had changed, and Connection was able to dig deeper, to make sure we were thinking it through and questioning some pieces.”

Optimizing Licenses for Each Job Role

The entire process was done virtually in Teams through meetings, file and screen sharing, and chatting, which saved a lot of time and minimized the hassle of getting everyone involved into one room for the multiple meetings. The Connection team utilized the Microsoft Landscape Optimization (MLO) process to pull together various scenarios for PING’s renewal. 

“Before we get to that point, we review what the customer owns today and go through the Cloud stack process,” Megan says. “We discuss what they’re using today and what they are potentially interested in and then put together a rough timeline for that deployment path using different scenarios. This also helps with our discussions with the Microsoft team, because we can let them know where the customer is today and what they’re looking for moving forward in terms of their goals for the next three years. It was a big team effort, but from my side of things, the MLO process was very helpful in pulling together all the right resources and information necessary so we could ultimately get PING what they wanted and what they needed.”

Eric was really impressed by the attention paid to their current plan and forecasting to what was needed to meet their goals for both security and utilizing the Frontline Worker solution for PING’s manufacturing staff. During their initial meetings, the Connection team walked them through every piece, consistently asking if it was needed or not, if they had a plan for it, and fully explained why they would or would not want to include things in their renewal. The Connection team listened to Eric and his colleagues and were able to present the scenarios that would be best for their business. 

Cultivating Confidence Among the Team

Anthony adds that the MLO team at Connection has had a lot of success working with Joe Truman, PING’s Account Manager, because he understands what the process is and trusts the MLO team to point the customer in the right direction. “We have that trust established with the Account Manager, so we were able to show Eric and the team the golden sample of what that process would look like. From there it was just us listening, like Eric said, we listened to what they wanted, and Megan built out the scenarios as Eric was stating what they wanted to see.”

Another key factor in the success of the partnership between PING and Connection is how involved the entire PING team was as a customer. They were fully immersed in every step of the process, meeting both with the Connection and Microsoft teams multiple times to make sure the renewal would meet all their needs. Megan describes the PING team as a pivotal part of the process and ultimately, its success, and is quick to explain that an engaged customer is not always the norm! The ease of their working relationship is apparent as they chat through PING’s renewal and recap how everything happened. 

Eric, Megan, and Anthony are joking and complimenting each other throughout the conversation, and you can tell that they are comfortable with and had gotten to know each other well professionally throughout this process. Connection also worked closely with the Microsoft team to showcase the value of PING moving from their Microsoft 365 E3 license to a Microsoft 365 E5 license and Frontline suites as well as F5 Security to support their multiple global locations.

“As far as renewals go, it was a good experience,” Eric says as we end our call. “Renewals are tough, and we started pretty early, and you always think you have so much time. It always comes to the very end, and you’re scrambling some, but thankfully, this wasn’t the scramble we’ve had in the past, so that was good, too.”

Sounds like a hole in one! For more information about the MLO process or Connection’s services, please reach out to your Account Manager or Account Executive.

Data Center Modernization Using a Hybrid... Sep 28, 2022 Connection

Today’s data centers face challenges for efficiency and performance that can be met using cloud technologies. However, determining the best cloud model and which workloads can securely be located where, or even which cloud service provider (CSP) would deliver the best return on investment (ROI), can be difficult for many organizations.

Research by IDC projects that 90+ percent of enterprises around the world are relying on a mix of on-premises, or dedicated, private clouds as well as several public clouds and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs. Gartner predicts that, by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will be using entirely cloud-based infrastructures. And, according to research by Flexera, 80 percent of survey respondents are taking a hybrid approach that combines using both public and private clouds. Altogether, cloud technologies are fast becoming a staple of enterprise computing.

Most often, there is either a hybrid cloud or multicloud strategy in place, the difference being that a hybrid cloud infrastructure blends two or more types of clouds (e.g., private, public, on-premises), while a multicloud, which primarily combines public cloud infrastructures, blends multiple clouds of the same type. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on a hybrid cloud approach.

Challenges Facing Data Centers

Enterprises need to maintain data security, ensure infrastructure performance, and make the most of legacy infrastructure for ROI. This also means they require the agility to change direction and scale based on dynamic usage needs, which also means future-proofing their investments—including for cloud technologies.

A foundational enablement for considering a hybrid cloud strategy is to see the public cloud as an extension of organizational infrastructure. This becomes important, as building additional on-premises data center capacity is expensive and time-consuming, and it cannot scale down once the investment has been made. A public cloud can easily scale for bursts in usage and enable applications at the edge of the network, meaning closer to remote users, with nominal up-front cost.

That said, decisions need to be made about which workloads and applications can (or should) run in the public cloud. Your organization might have older versions of operating systems that are not supported by CSPs. In that case, rearchitecting applications can be an additional project that takes time and resources.

Organizations also need to avoid vendor lock-in, to support remote and distributed employees with on-demand access to data, process data in real time, and to increase cloud computing capacity without increasing the data center. These challenges can be mitigated with a hybrid cloud environment. At the same time, enterprises must have a cloud strategy in place to avoid over- or under provisioning for cost containment.

What to Know about Hybrid Clouds

A hybrid cloud strategy enables agility in meeting business needs, from data privacy to avoiding vendor lock-in for any one CSP. Additionally, a hybrid cloud can scale to meet dynamic business needs, including peak activity, as workloads can be interchanged as demand and costs shift.

This can be critical for such applications as autonomous driving, industrial robots, and AI algorithms that need near-real-time data processing, which benefit from a hybrid cloud strategy to exploit the speed of on-premises data centers and the large data storage capacity of the cloud.

Another benefit of hybrid cloud is that you can have discrete applications or even cloud-native applications to meet your business needs. There is no need to hold back on cloud-native applications, but you also do not need to power legacy applications into the cloud until you are ready. The hybrid cloud gives you the flexibility to move at a comfortable pace as needed.

In the new “work from anywhere” model, organizations with hybrid cloud data centers can leverage their infrastructure so it is accessible to their remote employees. This can enhance performance, efficiency, and automation of both tasks and workforce productivity.

By leveraging automation in the cloud for configuring and provisioning resources, managing applications, and handling routine tasks, your organization can be more efficient and maximize IT staff for projects that require a higher level of skill.

A hybrid cloud also means reduced spend on infrastructure as fewer servers are needed on-premises.

To discover whether a hybrid cloud strategy could make sense in meeting business needs, enterprises should ask a few questions, as follows.

  • What is our current infrastructure? Is it scalable?
  • What is our current solution stack?
  • What workloads can be processed more efficiently by using the cloud?
  • Have we optimized our systems?
  • What is our density in terms of storage needs, now and projected?

The answers to these questions can help qualify the optimal cloud strategy for your organization.

Cloud Technologies for Security and Performance

When used in a hybrid cloud strategy, data centers can lower spend on infrastructure, gain manageability through APIs, and have consistent visibility of data whether at rest or in motion. In all cases, the data must be protected.

Securing your resources in the public cloud is always a shared responsibility between your organization and your chosen CSP. That said, top-tier CSPs invest heavily in making their data centers as secure and reliable as possible because they host workloads for hundreds of thousands of customers. Your CSP acts as an extra security layer between your processor and software.

Cloud technologies can provide an array of effective defensive measures to protect data and minimize potential attack surfaces. Intel-powered cloud technologies have built-in hardware-level security, such as with Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX), which isolates specific application code and data in memory so it is inaccessible from the outside.

It is important to ensure you have portability for flexibility in shifting workloads to different clouds as your needs change over time. Your chosen hybrid strategy should deploy to where the capabilities exist to optimize for the needs of given workloads.

You can also choose to optimize your on-premises environment so it mirrors the performance optimizations of cloud technologies by using Intel® Field Programmable Gate Arrays (Intel® FPGAs) to support crypto acceleration for enhanced hardware performance and Intel® Optane™ persistent memory for memory tiering. As a resource in monitoring different performance metrics, Intel Telemetry Collector (ITC) can collect references, including power and thermal statistics, performance counters, process activities, and threads and operating system–level disk, network, and memory statistics.

Your organization should determine what type of workloads should be distributed in the various environments of a hybrid cloud approach. This decision also prevents future “cloud sprawl” and avoids overprovisioning. A common miscalculation is that when an application is seen as highly valuable, it can be assigned greater cloud bandwidth when the reality is it may not need significant cloud bandwidth. Or when a newer cloud technology is perceived as more expensive, it may actually save resources because the uptime is more efficient, meaning shorter, so it is more cost-effective.

As examples of what workloads should be distributed where, consider the usage patterns from within your existing environments. You may want to retain sensitive or highly confidential data, especially if in a highly regulated industry in an on-premises data center. Other types of workloads to consider are virtual machines (VMs), business software, databases and backups, disaster recovery, development, analytics, and collaboration tools.

Future-proofing Your Cloud Investment

Changes to any cloud infrastructure in the future are inevitable, as needs, usage, and costs are dynamic. Too often, enterprises do not think about the potential changes that can make future migrations challenging. The triggers for these changes can be anything from cost increases to security risks to company policies to the need to repatriate (meaning to pull back into an on-premises environment). Preparing for such changes in advance makes them easier in the long run and maximizes your investments.

A hybrid cloud easily accommodates when some workloads need to stay on-premises and others need to shift based on demand. The good news with a hybrid cloud solution architecture is it helps avoid vendor lock-in, as cloud reliance is shared among CSPs and data centers. And by choosing Intel-based x86 architecture, which is common, future portability is simplified, as optimizations and configurations are built into the system. Optimizations in the software stack use the features of that hardware, so when migrating data to a new cloud, there are no performance issues. There is no need to rearchitect your infrastructure. And when you use containers to migrate, the process is even more streamlined.

Intel offers Node Feature Discovery (NFD), which is a Kubernetes add-on that helps pick the right node to run containers and facilitate intelligent scheduling of workloads, depending on need and platform capabilities. This orchestration of system resources and capabilities helps deliver streamlined application performance.

Another option is to use microservices, which are lightweight, loosely coupled services that can be used to build cloud-based applications. A microservices architecture is agile, scalable, and supports rapid deployment, dynamically operating multiple instances on a single or multiple servers to support workload demands. Individual microservices are often containerized to improve portability and scalability.

This kind of portability, when dictated by risk, performance, and cost, is what makes a hybrid cloud future-proof. By understanding your current infrastructure, solution stack, workloads, operating system, kernel level, usage, optimizations, configurations, and density for storage, you have a solid foundation for making responsible decisions around your cloud infrastructure.

If your organization is not yet convinced that committing data and applications to any cloud solution is the right strategy for your data center, a hybrid cloud could be the answer. Hybrid cloud eases security concerns by allowing you to keep critical resources in on-premises data centers and move other workloads to the public cloud.

Connection’s suite of cloud services is backed by a team who can help organizations navigate the complexities of various cloud environments. Connection’s team of experienced frontline experts are standing by to tailor a hybrid cloud strategy for your data center needs. To begin, just ask for a Cloud Landscape Optimization (CLO) assessment.

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.
No product or component can be absolutely secure.
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TechSperience Episode 110: Reimagining the... Sep 27, 2022 Connection

James Hilliard welcomes Nathan Coutinho from Logitech to discuss why organizations should reevaluate IT and office space planning. With high turnover rates and many employees feeling “burnt out,” now is the time to pause and think about what solutions are needed to encourage meeting equity and enhance collaboration among in-person and remote teams. Listen to this episode to discover other strategies companies should consider to better support employee wellness and productivity.

Host: James Hilliard

Guest: Nathan Coutinho, Head of Analyst Relations and Business Strategy at Logitech

Show Notes:

[1:00] Video applications have come a long way, from barely loading frames in the 1990s to our daily need for collaboration and building relationships. Users today depend on webcams, video platforms, and audio equipment. And this need will continue to push forward the evolution of these tools.

[3:20] Office spaces have changed too. The workforce went from collaborative meeting rooms to remote work environments due to the pandemic. Hybrid and remote models are here to stay.

[4:10] Having the right setup at home is important. There are so many physical factors; the right desk, the right chair, and the right environment all play a big role in your health. From the technology side, audio and video are critical elements for users to be their authentic selves.

[8:20] Poor video and audio can lead to fatigue. But not sharing your camera at all or using your camera too much can also lead to fatigue. These factors tie into the overall work culture.

[11:10] Because we are all at different levels of tech savviness, it’s important to have an inclusive mindset and an understanding that connectivity or accessibility issues may happen. Not everyone has the same access to technology either. For instance, some employees may be able to manage their bandwidth by setting up mesh routers or getting duplicate lines, but the average person may not have the means or even the knowledge to do this.

[17:35] What is meeting equity? Making sure employees working remotely can still get the full context of a meeting that’s taking place in the office. Getting the right framing, being able to see and hear everyone, and the ability to read body language has been a problem for years. Today’s web cameras can smoothly pan to those within a conference room so remote/hybrid employees can have a better experience. Web and audio technologies will continue to advance over the next five years.

[23:39] Organizations should have a thoughtful strategy when it comes to equipping employees with the right gear. There’s no silver bullet but enabling managers to lead their teams based on how they want to work is key, along with having the support from senior leaders.

[28:00] Now is the time to reset. Re-evaluate your office space. Consider flex spaces based on what meetings are happening and how those groups engage. Often, organizations rollout office spaces and collaboration tools without asking employees what they need and want. Adoption will always be hindered until companies really understand how employees want to work.

[33:57] How we work will continue to change. So, what can organizations do? Don’t assume people know how to use technologies. Training should be part of the strategy and supported by all leaders and departments. Persona-based understanding can help develop the right package of equipment and solutions. The goal is to deliver technologies that are so streamlined that it’s nearly invisible.

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Please Stop Factory “Hand-Me-Downs” Sep 22, 2022 Ryan Spurr

For most of my career, I watched a disturbing but common trend: the factory “hand-me-down.” It’s the act of taking older devices from engineers or higher-paid salary employees and passing them down into the factory to replace factory computers. I’m not sure about you, but I wasn’t particularly excited about receiving hand-me-downs from my older brother, so why would valued factory workers want an outdated, slower, and less capable computer in the factory? And how does this create a more attractive and productive place to work?

Another sad but realistic perception associated with hand-me-downs is what it says about how a company values its workforce. To a particular workforce population, we provide the latest and greatest devices to get the job done, but for this other group, we provide old equipment no longer suitable for use. Let that sink in for a moment, and consider how you might feel or how this and many other job frustrations might add up to a reason for underperformance or high turnover.

Yes. It’s true that a design and simulation engineer requires different equipment, and that equipment multiple years later might be better than the clunky ten-year-old computer used on the factory floor. Or that same computer might help IT solve a looming Windows end-of-support deadline.

But is that hand-me-down computer right for factory operations and those dependent on it?

Today's Factories Demand Better Devices

Smart manufacturing is about many things, including optimizing the entire value chain and deploying technologies that generate a more agile, efficient, and productive organization. As organizations shift to more digitally connected solutions, including automation, there remains a need for a frontline workforce that will depend upon endpoints to perform their job responsibilities in the factory.

Manufacturers are deploying or upgrading new ERP, MES, automation, and business Intelligence applications at their fastest pace in years. Because of this, it's even more critical to avoid hand-me-downs. The experiment of placing devices in the factory is over—technology has won and is being adopted everywhere. It’s time that manufacturers shed their past view of manufacturing technology and demand more powerful and better fitting devices for how the factory operates.

Opportunities to Improve Productivity and Outcomes

Besides the human component of this long-standing practice, I would like to challenge you with the more considerable missed opportunities at stake. First, the modern factory workforce has many responsibilities that didn’t previously exist. With so much disruption in the factory, shouldn’t our endpoint strategy change too? I would argue yes. Hand-me-downs are less capable, resulting in slower transactions, complacency, and dissatisfaction. Outdated equipment will impact major business systems’ adoption and rollouts, slow employees in everyday tasks, and ultimately affect productivity. In the worst cases, we’ve observed process abandonment or the act of employees ignoring processes, data collections, traceability, or other required tasks in response to poor technology.

Second, while a hand-me-down may have lots of computing power, it may not be a well-suited device for the environment. Office devices are not always well suited for factory work. The first challenge we often hear about is the way employees must work. Factory workers may require more flexible and fit-for-purpose devices that optimize the way they work in the factory. For example, a typical office worker might sit at a desk for hours. In contrast, a factory worker might require wildly different mounting, mobility, and accessories to optimize their ergonomics and workflow. This can be even more compelling in harsh environments with extreme temperatures, particulates, chemicals, liquids, food, drugs, or regulatory requirements concerning safety, sanitization, hazard locations, or other conditions that require uniquely fitting solutions.

Lastly, we need to take into consideration the total ownership cost. IT often ignores the unique requirements and challenges arising from not using the proper fitting equipment that is explicitly built for the environment and lifecycle. While you may think you’re saving the company money by squeezing another 3–5 years out of an already old computer, think about the total cost of ownership. Considerations include employee productivity, OEM support, next-generation operating system compatibility, life expectancy, and reliability in harsh environments. After all, your factory production depends on these devices—and you can’t just send them to another office desk.

Empower Your Factory Employees

Manufacturers are quickly deploying new responsibilities and technologies into the factory. The workforce that drives your business expects devices that support how they work in the modern world. Using refurbished devices on the factory floor may seem like a great way to save money, but today’s workers need devices optimized for their roles. Don’t sacrifice employee productivity for outdated hand-me-downs.

Connection believes there is a better way to equip your factory workforce. If you’re interested in learning more, engage with a partner that will take the time to understand your business objectives, evolving applications, and smart manufacturing goals and help you select devices that are the right fit for the future of your factory operations.

Virtualization Security Just Got Easier Sep 22, 2022 Chris Drake

Troubleshooting is never easy, but having to work through firewall issues also makes the process much more involved. That’s especially true if you have to bring in multiple people from multiple disciplines—and let’s not get started on having to request a configuration change.

The VMware NSX distributed firewall (DFW) makes this entire process much more manageable, thanks to tight integration with your existing or new vSphere installation. DFW also includes tools built to assist with mapping traffic paths and pinpointing any roadblocks preventing correct operation.

DFW technology has been specifically built for east-west traffic in a virtualized environment, enabling you to restrict or allow communication between resources before it even leaves the vSphere environment—thereby handling this security without the use of an external firewall. Additionally, this technology gives you the ability to visualize this traffic using tools such as trace flow, which shows the path taken by packets and any DFW rules blocking them. The best part? This information is presented to you in an easy-to-read format that is accessible via the NSX Manager GUI, which eliminates the need to sort through multiple log files to pinpoint potential failures.

Using NSX Intelligence in conjunction with the DFW provides even more monitoring and protection. This product not only monitors an NSX environment, but also visualizes the layout of in-place policies, groups, and services. The software also detects suspicious activity, giving you an at-a-glance view of your environments. Active monitoring of these items is just the beginning: NSX Intelligence then uses that collected information to recommend and even implement DFW rules based on your configuration and data, making sure all security changes pertain to your specific environment (and not just arbitrary metrics set by vendors).

With NSX, you can now truly manage the security of the vSphere ecosystem in an effective and straightforward manner, all while staying inside the bounds of the virtual environment. To get started, engage one of Connection’s many experts in the field to assist with implementation and fine-tuning customizations to your data center.

Maintaining Cloud Compliance and Security... Sep 15, 2022 Dan Ortiz

Each company strives to differentiate themselves from their competition through the development of intellectual property, formulas, processes, unique methods of production, etc. Protecting proprietary information is essential in maintaining a competitive edge along with preserving a unique company identity. Leveraging SaaS-based Microsoft 365 provides a comprehensive set of online services that need to be configured and continuously tuned. Your compliance and security settings are essential to the protection of your environment and proprietary intellectual capital. 

Addressing Cybersecurity Threats

Think about the beginning of modern aviation. The Wright Brothers dreamed of creating a flying machine early on in their lives. Their passion for creating something groundbreaking led to the first recorded flight. Imagine if their designs had been stolen. History would have been changed forever. The difference between the early 1900s and now is the number of bad actors out there with access to a remote gateway in which to commit theft. The scale of attempted theft of proprietary company information is growing exponentially through identity breaches, ransomware, browser hijacks, DDoS attacks, rootkits, trojans, virus, and worms—just to name a few. There are individual bad actors out there as well as state sponsored groups. Ransomware has increased 300% year over year. In 2020, the average cost of downtime associated with ransomware attacks rose by 94%

Meeting Compliance Requirements

In addition to fending off the rapidly increasing threat vectors, companies also have stringent compliance needs based on industry regulations, company location, legal, standards, and ethical practices. How do you ensure that your company is meeting all the compliance requirements? What would happen to a healthcare organization if patient information was shared accidentally? What would happen if your company was audited and there were gaps in your legal hold policies? How would your company recover from customer credit card information being accessed illegally? 

Balancing Resource Constraints

Let’s face it, companies need to ensure that their data is secure and compliant with limited IT budgets.  Per Gartner, 38% of the IT budget is tied up in headcount and 74% of their time is caught up in IT operations. These are the same people that are tasked with innovation and company growth. Burnout is a real problem in companies and the job market is quite attractive. You can invest in growing the talent internally or try to hire the right talent on the open market. How much do recruiting agencies charge for talent placements?  

Managing Complex Cloud Environments

Many organizations are faced with these cloud challenges. Proactive threat monitoring, compliance gap analyses, optimizing compliance performance, and setting policy baselines with limited resources can put a lot in jeopardy for your organization. Joining forces with a partner that offers full-scale Microsoft 365 managed services can significantly free up your IT operations and budget for other imperative needs. As a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and Microsoft Tier 1 Cloud Solution Provider, Connection offers customized solutions to meet the needs of your organization with a value-based approach focused on your success. Our flexible options can cover some or all the administrative tasks associated with your Microsoft 365 environment, while ensuring your company is secure and compliant. Ask your Account Manager about our Microsoft 365 cloud managed services or contact us for more information.

The Top Three Microsoft Tools to Organize... Sep 13, 2022 Makayla Mota

The mornings are crisper, and the excitement and possibility in the air are palpable. The leaves are starting to slightly shift colors, and there are glimpses of school buses and new backpacks at every turn. Ahhh, September and back-to-school season are upon us. Students these days have traded in their number two pencils for styluses and their three-ring binders for devices, but the sense of hope and new beginnings remains the same.

In 2022 over 183,000 educational institutions are using Teams to enable collaboration among students and faculty. Among them is the Teaching Fellows program at UNC Chapel Hill. When student Katelyn Rhyne started college, she found herself struggling to stay organized and on top of everything within her unfamiliar environment.

“I was questioning how I went from straight-A high school student to a college student that’s struggling to get an A/B,” she says. “And I see that a lot when I talk to my peers and classmates.”

When she began the Teaching Fellows program at UNC under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Diliberto, she was introduced to a variety of Microsoft tools. Katelyn had a familiarity with programs like Microsoft Word and Excel, but it wasn't until she was given the opportunity to attend a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Training Academy with Cindy Daniels, a Professional Learning Consultant at Connection, that she began to gain some insight into programs such as Teams, OneNote, and To Do.

1. Teams—For Optimal Collaboration

“I started using Teams at the same time I was learning Google Meet and Google Classroom,” Katelyn says. “I quickly found that I preferred Teams for scheduling meetings and video calls, because there were more specification options when scheduling. The layout of Teams in general was also easier to follow since everything from meetings, files, and messages were all connected and easily accessible without having to open new tabs.” 

Cindy explains that one of the major factors for Microsoft in the classroom over other programs is because of the alignment of their organizational tools, whereas other platforms feature programs that all have a separate purpose. Microsoft can communicate, collaborate, and provide accessibility in all their arenas. 

During her undergraduate years, Katelyn worked on campus at UNC Carolina Performing Arts, and they were using Teams to communicate as well. Katelyn was impressed with the level of organization; their Team was set up with Channels focused on different events and projects, which made it easy to seek out information or ask questions in the designated channel, so you were not disturbing everyone to get the information you needed. 

“Teams has helped me stay connected to my superiors, share project ideas, and collaborate with my peers and colleagues,” she says. “For work and school especially, Teams was useful since there is an app for it. So, no need to sign into an account online, I have access to all I need just with a touch of a button on my phone or laptop.”

2. OneNote—For Organizational Greatness

For me, OneNote has always been the shining star, the not-too-well known, little organizational gem of the Microsoft Suite. I trained teachers on using OneNote both in the classroom and for lesson planning for years. Talking to Katelyn, I could tell she felt the same affection for it.

“OneNote has been beneficial for me throughout my college experience. I created digital notebooks and organized my class notes on my laptop so that I wouldn’t have to carry as many books around campus. I also used it for personal tasks like planning my class schedule and college goals and timeline. The nice thing about OneNote is that it has three levels of organization (notebooks, sections, and pages), so there are endless possibilities for organizing school as well as hobbies or life.”

She also praises the physical feel of OneNote, which is something I absolutely agree with. The layout of a OneNote notebook mimics a traditional binder with tabs and pages, so if you’re also a fan of doing things on paper, OneNote truly feels like flipping through a notebook.

“It just makes sense with how my brain works and how I would organize physically, so I think that is a nice transition for people learning it,” she says. It also reduces some of the cognitive load of keeping track of everything for a college student. “I open the OneNote app and it’s not like I am searching through files—they're all right there—it is just the tabs I click between to find what I need.”

Katelyn also found a great studying tool in OneNote, creating guides with several types of content and sharing them out with her peers. “OneNote was most useful for me when I needed to study for tests because I could create my own study guides full of mind maps, pictures, words, etc., and then I could share it with others to add their thoughts. It made group studying more accessible, in case we didn’t have common availability to meet to study.”

3. To Do—To Get It All Done, On Time

Cindy recently introduced Katelyn to the To Do app, and Katelyn has become a quick supporter. Because the app works across platforms and can be utilized through the Microsoft desktop and mobile app, it is ideal for a college student.

“I just recently started using the Tasks and To Do app. It has helped me create reminders for myself. Up until this point, I’ve written all the things I need to do or remember in a planner. That works well unless I forget to open and check my planner. I know I will always check my phone multiple times a day, so having the reminders show up there was a good choice for me.” 

In the “My Tasks” section Katelyn can manage her academic, professional, and personal tasks, knowing that nothing will be forgotten.

“I like that as an app, Tasks and To Do will give me various types of reminders, like banners and notifications on my home screen, and then make a bell noise once I’ve checked off a task. It’s satisfying and motivates me to keep completing tasks.”  

Katelyn experienced what happens to many first-year students in college: the realization of being on their own, coupled with the responsibility of managing their class loads, jobs, and social responsibilities as adults. It can be very overwhelming, and even if academics was something that came easily for you as a high school student, college can be a completely different situation. Microsoft for Education tools have the power to connect the dots by including collaboration, communication, and accessibility tools across every platform. And because everything is aligned, it limits distractibility and eases the cognitive load—making the transition and journey through college a little easier while also preparing students for the professional world. It’s an A+ all around. Please see Connection’s Academies and Workshops for Educators for more information about planning a Microsoft training session, just in time for back-to-school season.

Apple Devices in Manufacturing and Retail Sep 12, 2022 Theresa Longley

Apple in Manufacturing

With the adoption of Industry 4.0 taking over manufacturing, facilities must be able to keep all employees—from OT to IT—up to date on new procedures, additional safety practices, and improved operational efficiencies. By putting mobile technology—and real-time information—in the hands of those that keep the factories operational, your employees will have access to the most up-to-date procedures, remote expertise, critical backend systems, and mechanisms that allow users to communicate and pivot quickly on the floor.

The Apple platform provides everything a mobile factory worker needs—from great cameras and microphones to accurate GPS and motion sensors, to optimal security, manageability, and expandability. Organizations can streamline work tasks by automatically pulling GPS data, collecting video or audio data, or using machine learning and augmented reality to support performance, management, and diagnostics on the factory floor.

Apple in Retail

Gone are the days of proprietary, single-function POS systems purchased from—and serviced by—a single entity. With digital avenues driving less traffic to brick-and-mortar establishments, retailers must find ways to improve employee engagement and differentiate the customer buying experience. 

Apple’s mobile platform is a perfect fit for the retail industry. Retail professionals are highly mobile; Apple’s platform is built for a mobile work environment. iPhones and iPads are designed to be powerful, engaging, and simple to use. They allow retail organizations to access critical information with just a tap. This is just one of the reasons why Apple’s platform is being adopted in retail.

When employees can deliver a great customer experience by leveraging real-time access to information, other benefits often quickly follow—including increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

As individuals and employees, we’ve made the transition to mobile. Now is the time to make sure your organization can keep up and Connection is here to help. Connection has been a partner with Apple for more than 35 years. Our team is here to help manufacturing and retail organizations implement mobile solutions on Apple's platform. Reach out to your Apple team today to get started on mobile technologies to drive new levels of productivity.

5 Tips for Writing an Effective IT Job... Sep 08, 2022 Patrick Dja Konan

It’s no surprise that the IT job market is very competitive. More than 90% of IT workers are currently employed, which creates a significant lack of available talent. According to the latest IT Job Market and US National Employment Data, the demand for IT professionals continues to grow in spite of inflation and high energy costs. The IT job market is expanding at record pace, with an additional 46,100 available jobs than at the same time last year—and more than 200,000 IT jobs remain unfilled. 

Although there are various steps you can take to increase your chances of securing IT talent, having a well-written (not cookie-cutter) job description can help you find the right pool of applicants. Here are five tips to consider for writing an effective IT job description. 

1. Describe the Work Accurately

Hiring managers should provide enough information about the day-to-day responsibilities to help paint an accurate picture of the position. You can include projects they will be working on, teams or people they’d interact with, and career growth opportunities (if any)—as well as the value this hire will add to the overall growth of the company. By providing sufficient information on what this role entails, applicants can better evaluate the opportunity and be more engaged throughout the application and interviewing process.  

2. Focus on Required Skills

It is critical that hiring managers solely focus on the skills that are required to perform the job. IT workers are becoming more and more specialized; therefore, applicants are most interested in the requirements that align with their current skillsets and career goals. Focusing on just the must-have skills, instead of nice-to-haves, will help filter the number of qualified candidates.

3. Use a Precise Job Title

Job titles can occasionally be misleading, especially in IT. What one company calls an IT support role could mean something completely different to another. While providing a great overview of the responsibilities is vital to writing an effective job description, having an accurate job title is just as important, since this will serve as the keyword applicants will search for on job boards. 

4. Include Education and Certification Requirements

List any education, employment eligibility, and certifications that are required for either the role or by your organization. This is something that is often overlooked, but can save you and the applicants time and effort in the long run. 

5. Showcase the Compensation and Benefits 

While some states require compensation to be included in the job description, providing your pay range in the job description shows full transparency. It also minimizes the back-and-forth of salary negotiations. Imagine having an amazing applicant who is a great fit for your job opening, only to find out at the end that their salary expectation is out of your budget. It is also important to highlight some of the benefits your organization offers, whether it’s paid time off, 401k options, memberships, health programs, and any other perks that could be a compelling reason for someone to join your company.

If your job descriptions are clear about the responsibilities for the role and are concise about the skills you want from an applicant, you will receive a higher quality pool of candidates. And if you need professional help, organizations across the U.S. can leverage Connection’s IT and staffing expertise to find qualified candidates to hire. Our experienced staffing team takes the time to understand your IT staffing requirements and provide tailored recruiting strategies to help fill your hiring needs in a cost-effective and timely manner. 

Connection and ecoprintQ: Partnering to Help... Sep 06, 2022 Michelle Petrovic

Beginning this year, Connection and ecoprintQ have partnered to bring PaperCut MF to the channel. This solution is the industry-leading print management solution. 

But first, what is print management software? How does it work? Read on to find out more and discover how this incredible PaperCut MF solution can make your enterprise more efficient.

What Is Print Management Software?

Print management software provides system administrators and IT managers with a centralized tool to enable, monitor, and track printing using:

  • Simple print enablement
  • Print security
  • Waste reduction
  • Cost control

Think of your users. How many of them print anything wherever, whenever, and however they want? Many will gravitate to color printers. Some might never print double-sided and still others might leave sensitive documents at the printer. Implementing a print management solution allows IT to determine these details per user or user group—saving your business money, increasing security, and being more sustainable.

Sustainability through Reduced Print Waste

I know printing and sustainability don’t always go hand-in-hand. But, implementing a print management solution, like PaperCut MF, will help you understand how much people are printing in your organization. For example, some users may print every email they receive. Others may never print anything. But, knowing how much people print is the first step to decreasing your carbon footprint. Once you know this, you can limit the number of pages a user has per month, require them to print double-sided, or even print only in black and white. Each of these small changes will help your organization be more environmentally friendly. 

Secure All Documents Before, During, and After Printing

How many printers do you have in your office? You likely have a few larger copiers with smaller desktop printers scattered around. If I asked you why that’s the case, I’d bet you’d tell me it’s because people don’t want to print at a communal printer that is not nearby. If it isn’t close to your desk, the risk of sensitive data being seen by others increases. What if you could prevent the job from printing until you’re at the printer? PaperCut MF provides a solution to this problem. In addition to managing when and how much someone prints, PaperCut MF provides an on-premises printing solution to allow users to pull their jobs down when they’re ready.

Shrink Your Footprint and Your Bills

If sustainability and security aren’t enough, you can save money too. In businesses where anyone can print whatever they want, paper, ink, and toner costs can get out of control. Simply requiring double-sided, black and white printing can reduce costs by as much as 50%! You’re also saving money because there won’t be printouts waiting on the printer, forgotten, only to be thrown away by someone who later passes by. For more information on how you can save money, be more secure, and print sustainably, contact an Account Manager today!

Manufacturers Deserve a Better Partner Sep 06, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Leading our Manufacturing Practice, I speak with dozens of clients each week, and with the reopening of most businesses, I have again been traveling across the country. The macro themes are all the same. Workforce challenges. Supply chain issues. High input costs. Lower productivity. The need to automate and streamline processes. Despite all these challenges, one other theme seems to eclipse them all. How can Connection be a better partner?

You might think this is a tricky question to field on the spot, but it's quite the opposite for Connection, our committed sales teams, and our vertical practices. Our company has been building its business around the simple idea of being a better partner, with less focus on the reactive and transactional, and more on being proactive, strategic, and able to deliver solutions for procurement, technology, and operations that enable our clients to focus on what’s most important: business growth.

Customer-focused Support

While I’m partial to the investments in our Manufacturing Practice, our sales organizations genuinely make the difference in being a better partner. When I first joined Connection to establish the Manufacturing Practice, I was struck by how fondly clients would speak of their sales relationships. This is furthered by leadership’s commitment to keep account executives with their clients to preserve continuity and maintain relationships, regardless of how the organization is reorganizing internally. This mindset is founded on culture and a commitment to do what is best for the client—not the other way around.

For an outstanding example, look no further than to our Enterprise division to see how our company invests in leading-edge solutions to streamline procurement processes with its proprietary procurement system, MarkITplace®, which includes deep integrations with ITSM and procurement platforms like ServiceNow, SAP Ariba, Coupa, and others. Combined with our outstanding sales teams, we aim to deliver more value through proactive features like optimizing critical workflows, delivering vital procurement analytics, supply visibility, and better asset management to transform warranty and software management. These differentiators make it easier for your employees to request, approve, and acquire approved solutions through integrated and automated processes that lighten the load for IT and procurement while also delivering a more extraordinary end user experience.

Delivering Optimal Technology Partnerships and Solutions

As part of our Industry Solutions Group, the Manufacturing Practice is led by a team of industry experts from the manufacturing trade. We understand the manufacturing business because we have worked in various business functions and information technology. We understand the taxonomy, job roles, challenges, and the measures business objectives are held to. As a result, the team can engage with various stakeholders to better understand your business and what makes it unique, and recommend use cases and solutions that prioritize the business outcomes you seek.

The manufacturing practice also has a diverse and evolving portfolio of hardware, software, and services aimed solely at supporting manufacturing businesses. Through regular client engagement, industry working groups, and market analysis, we introduce new partnerships to make available the technology and solutions necessary to support your manufacturing’s growth and transformation initiatives. Each offering focuses on critical capabilities that a manufacturing organization may require, whether IT, operational technology, cybersecurity, or business functions like facilities, field service, production, research, development, or warehousing.

Through in-person workshops or virtual collaboration sessions, our Manufacturing Practice works closely with clients on an ongoing basis to form a deeper understanding of your business objectives, facilities, infrastructure, and processes. This allows our teams to proactively educate OT and IT teams on emerging technologies, proven use cases, and what solutions might be viable options now or as part of a longer-term investment strategic plan.

Many of our clients are looking to simplify their sourcing process in favor of a partnership that rationalizes disparate products, consolidates purchasing to achieve better pricing or terms, simplifies procurement and renewal processes, and ensures they get the best service delivery. Working closely with our sales teams, our Manufacturing Practice can sit down with your procurement teams to collaboratively review the existing inventory of products for opportunities to streamline your sourcing operations or identify solutions that bring better value or capabilities.

Another way we support clients is by supporting their efforts to comply with industry standards or regulations. While each manufacturing subindustry has different obligations, we are prepared to support the diverse needs in waterproof, sanitization, intrinsically safe, hands-free, fanless, and traceability solutions. Let our Manufacturing Practice recommend products and services that mitigate environmental conditions, enhance how your employees work, and ensure compliance.

Our team is passionate and well prepared to help your business by establishing a partnership that is better, relevant, and long-term.

Yes. Let Us Prove We’re a Better Partner!

Connection is committed to continuously investing in the future of our manufacturing clients through an evolving manufacturing portfolio of hardware, software, and services, along with world-class sales teams, client portals, procurement automation, and backed by manufacturing-certified sales teams who care about your business and go above and beyond to help you succeed. If your business is looking for a better partner, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice or contact our Sales Team to help simplify your efforts to acquire the best-fitting technology solutions for your unique business. 

Don’t Just Upgrade Your Data... Sep 01, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Operational excellence is everything in manufacturing, whether we’re talking about speeding research and development or producing next-generation products faster, cheaper, and at better quality. The companies that can bring products to market faster will outperform the competition.

Those manufacturers that value process and technology are not only investing in solutions to accelerate business processes but are also concerned with the ability to reduce bottom line costs, offset higher energy prices, meet sustainability objectives or investor obligations, and fuel innovation vital to delivering competitive advantage.

For example, 40% of carbon emissions come from the manufacturing industry and its consumption of electricity and fossil fuels to support operations. That same energy consumption impacts operational costs and runs counter to any corporate values, strategic objectives, or investor expectations for environment, sustainability, and governance (ESG) initiatives. Even for those organizations unconcerned about energy consumption, change is underway as regulatory organizations like the SEC issue proposed rulings that would mandate disclosure of greenhouse gases in financial statements. Whatever the driver, reducing energy consumption leads to reduced costs, and this is good business.

Moving away from energy to accelerating innovation, manufacturers shifting from legacy research, development, and production models to model-based product development achieve total savings between 70 and 80%. With the usage of digital twins, generative design and simulation, and integrated digital processes, manufacturers can dramatically reduce design cycles and costs—and bring products to market faster. Install new high-performance compute solutions such as these onto the highest performing and most efficient compute platforms, and your organization will see further benefits as compared to traditional solutions.

Productivity, another focused business measure in manufacturing, is also under assault as productivity fluctuates due to increased wage pressures, high employee turnover, material shortages, and higher costs. More recently, it was made clear how these headwinds were affecting businesses with Q1 2022 productivity dropping 7.5%, the most since 1947. With fluctuating productivity, inflation, and wage pressures impacting the bottom line, manufacturers look to “adopt new technologies or invest in equipment to make their workers more productive” and to attract and retain the talent necessary to sustain operations and grow their businesses.

Changes You Can Make Right Now

While many of these economic challenges are outside of manufacturers’ control, what actions can manufacturing leaders take to reduce costs, improve productivity, and also deliver on investor or regulatory initiatives, such as energy and sustainment?

One simple lever is investing in next-generation computing platforms. For example, AMD’s advancements in its compute platform are proving essential to optimizing how your business executes its strategic goals with realistic reductions in energy and infrastructure costs, and faster time to market.

By simply replacing the existing computing platform within your data center, research processes, or plant operations, you can obtain substantial business outcomes with a short time to value and an impactful return on investment.

Is your business looking to speed up research, improve processes, attract and retain the best talent, and out-compete the competition? Let’s look at how easy it is to invest in technology that has been proven to deliver results for manufacturers.

Business Levers You Can Pull

Manufacturers are under pressure to grow, cut costs, deliver faster, and continue to create more innovative people, processes, and tools to establish long-standing business differentiation in the marketplace. So, what are some of the typical business levers manufacturers might consider pulling to improve their technology posture while also delivering tangible business results in line with strategic objectives? AMD EPYC processors typically perform 17–50% better per-core than the market. This added performance is a significant factor in lowering data center operational costs in the following areas:

1. Rationalized Infrastructure: A common go-to for IT is to deliver the same or better services with a smaller footprint by rationalizing the number of servers, space, power, and associated costs to operate the data center. While the data center facility may not need to shrink, the demand on IT to deliver more compute surely exists, and having adequate space in the data center to house increased compute platform and workload is important for a growing business and deployment of new applications in support of the business.

With AMD EPYC, servers can be consolidated up to 8-to-1 over existing infrastructure. As an example, 50 servers can be consolidated down to six. This level of consolidation can reduce space in racks by 88%, rack floor space by 75%, administration costs by 88%, and power by 83%.

2. Reduced Licensing Costs: Perhaps more costly than the data center infrastructure itself is the software it’s designed to execute. Today’s ERP, PLM, and MES platforms are extremely expensive, and shifting to a lower density processor infrastructure without sacrificing compute capacity and performance may be one option to explore.

Software includes operating environment (OE) and applications licensing. The licensing models include per-processor and per-core costs but may also include other metrics like virtual memory. Deploying AMD EPYC can typically save 50–75% on per-processor OE licensing, including VMware virtualization software from vSphere to the full stack of VMware Cloud Foundation. For per-core OE licensing like Microsoft Windows Server, deploying AMD EPYC can save up to 50% over existing infrastructure.

The cost of applications, though, typically ranges from 5 to 20 times the cost of the computing hardware. And it is here where AMD EPYC makes a significant impact on lowering the cost of operations. For example, in a small 5-node database server cluster, switching to AMD with just 14% fewer cores needed to match the latest generation of Intel processors can save $272,000 on Microsoft SQL Server licensing, with an additional savings of $62,500 per year in support costs. The computing hardware in this example is around $75,000.

3. Increased Productivity: Nothing makes leadership more excited than increases in productivity measures, shortened design lifecycles, and reduced risk with new product introduction. With AMD’s compute platform, not only can you deliver reduced costs of operation, but you can also deliver more computing performance that results in more design cycles and simulations, as well as allow your organization to experiment with new design or production techniques before the product ever hits the factory floor. This not only creates a more productive organization, but also one that may be more innovative—and together those can deliver a significant market differentiation.

Productivity in IT operations is improved by having fewer servers or fewer processors to maintain. At any scale, deploying AMD EPYC improves reliability and availability and reduces security risk. Every EPYC processor has built-in Infinity Guard security features that work seamlessly without administrative burden.

Productivity in research, design, testing, and validation processes is improved when designers and engineers can do more in less time. Creativity and inspiration fuel innovation. Designers can do more simulations, raise element resolution to a design model, and add in more design factors in studies.

4. Reduced Energy Costs: Next-generation compute platforms are simply more efficient and utilize less energy. Whether the technology is housed in the data center servers, edge compute or edge servers in the factory, or in some specialty laboratory supporting engineering, AMD EPYC hardware will drive down operational costs, reduce peak time usage in at-risk locations, minimize utility penalties, and help contribute to any corporate objectives associated with environment and sustainability initiatives.

In the consolidation example shown above, the reduction of most interest here may be the reduction of greenhouse gases. For this example, emissions are reduced by 225 metric tons CO2 per year. Energy savings and emissions reduction associated with a consolidation with high-density compute in many cases fully justifies the cost of a replacement alone without any of the other factors considered.

Every manufacturer has different challenges and objectives, and AMD EPYC provides a full spectrum of processor core densities, from 8 to 64 cores per processor, that will enable a wide range of business stakeholders and use cases. Manufacturing applications will perform optimally at some point within this spectrum between deploying low-core density with higher per core performance and higher scale-out node count, or higher-core density with higher per node performance and fewer nodes. Throughout both ends of the spectrum, AMD EPYC excels over the competition in both performance and energy use. 

How Is Technology Applied to Business?

It’s important to not only evaluate the impact on IT (think space, maintenance, infrastructure costs), but also how investments will improve key business departments and the overall corporate business objectives. Here are a few use cases that Connection has supported for enterprise manufacturers and the kinds of outcomes achieved by updating to next-generation compute platforms.

1. High-performance Compute (HPC) Applications: Deploying AMD EPYC servers accelerates the design process for HPC applications, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA). EPYC provides higher model granularity and accuracy to the design process while speeding up the time to design and test the designs before prototypes are constructed and tested.

2. RTL Simulations for Semiconductor Design: Faster time-to-value (TTV) is realized with AMD EPYC, providing more simulations per day and faster staging of shared resources. RTL Simulation also provides design assurance, which reduces the risk of failure in a manufacturing step in a one-thousand-step process. A single failure can disrupt production, resulting in major costs and delays.

In both examples above, productivity gains become inherent as designers and engineers realize they can attempt new approaches and what-if scenarios. The other obvious benefits include shorter design and simulation cycles, more simulations in the same period, and increased productivity from your engineering teams.

3. ERP Infrastructure: AMD EPYC systems not only outperform in manufacturing design applications they also provide operational efficiency, reliability, and security in the data center. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other critical business systems are core to business operations. They can also act as a drag on business processes as software becomes more demanding, your business grows, and the amount of processing necessary to complete data processing or analysis tasks is constantly on the rise. This is especially true in common use cases such as material resource planning (MRP), netting, nightly processing, or closing books at the end of a financial period. Each of these tasks takes hours or perhaps days. These same software applications are also costly in terms of licensing and maintenance—creating even more opportunities to reduce overall licensing costs via hardware, while also improving overall performance and delivering results faster.

The Benefits of Server Consolidation

Let’s examine how AMD EPYC systems help to improve performance, reduce licensing costs, and deliver better reliability and security of critical business systems.

Operational efficiency is the result of deploying fewer servers, processors, and cores. Server consolidation is one method, and with EPYC, higher consolidation ratios are possible. Higher per-core capabilities maximize the number of users, improve response times, and speed up reporting and processing. EPYC per-core advantages average 23% over the competition, thus saving on per-core licensing. And saving that percentage on expensive software typically exceeds the cost of the server platform by a factor of 5 to 20 times. Other compute consumption models have similar cost savings.

Processor consolidation is another method that improves operational efficiency. It also improves reliability. Contrary to popular belief, reducing the processors in a server adds to reliability. Having 2-socket CPUs in a server doubles the risk of failure, as when one processor fails, it typically crashes the server and renders it unbootable until the processor is replaced.

Servers with four or more processors can be consolidated to one or two EPYC processors. A higher density of DRAM allows larger memory per CPU, so memory capacity is no longer an issue. The benefits include software licensing savings, lower energy, and smaller footprint.

EPYC provides better performance per watt which reduces power and cooling, a common issue with many data centers.

AMD EPYC’s Infinity Guard is a unique set of silicon-level security features built into every EPYC processor. These features are complementary to other data security solutions and work without additional software and the associated administrative burden. Infinity Guard includes secure memory encryption (SME), secure root-of-trust, and secure encrypted virtualization (SEV). Public cloud providers’ confidential computing is enabled by SEV. Infinity Guard protects from malicious attacks on physical memory access, malicious firmware attacks, and rogue attacks mitigating virtualization VM-to-VM and VM-to-hypervisor vulnerabilities.   

Start Reducing Costs and Improving Productivity Today

Deploying a modern compute platform is proven to improve performance and drive significant business outcomes in many areas of a manufacturing business. It’s easy to imagine how deploying AMD’s EPYC compute platform can benefit your business, especially if you have complex research and development, high-performance compute use cases, or even for ERP environments in search of better performance. Not only will AMD EPYC-enabled servers improve performance, but they can positively contribute to your space constraints, support energy reduction or sustainability initiatives, and most importantly, reduce operational costs across a range of business levers critical to IT and line of business. Don’t just upgrade—upgrade to the best, and transform how business gets done.

If your business is considering upgrading servers, or your company is interested in how next-generation compute platforms can improve how your business operates, then engage Connection’s AMD specialists and our Manufacturing Practice to learn more about how this technology and the many use cases may benefit your organization.

Your Call is Very Important to Us. . .Uh Huh Aug 23, 2022 Dr Keith Nelson

In this age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), bots and internet shopping, is customer service now dead? One could easily argue that, in the words of Billy Crystal/Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, it’s MOSTLY dead. It sure seems like people are generally willing to accept the frustration of being left on hold for an hour, dealing with a clueless level 1 employee reading from a script, or being denied an option to speak with a human being at all. Maybe, but as with everything in life, there’s always a tipping point.

For a while I’ve held the view that each business organization has done the research to determine the inflection point where poor customer service will lead to a meaningful loss in business, but now I’m not so sure. Signs of a consumer rebellion are slowly beginning to emerge in the form of actions like cable cord-cutting, brutal social media reviews, and moving on to competitors. Predictably, this reactive shift is highly concentrated in the over 40 demographic, given their memory of friendlier times.  For the millennials+ generations, the jury is still out as to whether the current acceptance of this new world order will persist or crumble as our society wrestles with what is widely perceived as an accelerating evolution toward a lack of accountability and an erosion of civility.

Notably, the healthcare industry may present a unique circumstance where customer service is rapidly taking on greater importance.  Patients have historically been willing to put-up with scheduling inconvenience and impersonal interaction because of their emotional tie to a given provider whom they view as their best chance to rescue them from their health ailment. This stickiness is usually a result of a valued referral from another provider or individual they trust, or a positive impression formed by researching the provider’s public profile. And so, there is a built-in loyalty factor that typically overshadows provider shortcomings, which essentially has made medical practices bulletproof to business contraction.  However, American society has been inexorably pivoting to a more consumer-centric orientation, and savvy healthcare providers have responded to this by aggressively competing for patients on the basis of convenience and superior technology, among other experiential differentiators.  Hence, the new concentration on customer service and the recognition that patients are willing to prioritize their personal experience over their confidence in the provider’s reputation and capabilities.

So, what kind of things are luring patients away from their trusted providers? Here are some examples, a few of which were mentioned in prior blogs (see “Personalizing the Patient Experience” and “How to Optimize Your Patient-Facing App”):

  • An easy-to-use Digital Front Door including a robust app that puts the patient in control (i.e. prescription refills, scheduling, communication with the provider, indoor wayfinding, parking assistance, intuitively organized medical records)
  • Digital appointment registration, reminders and check-in
  • On-time service
  • Out-of-pocket price visibility prior to treatment
  • Friendly, proactive and personalized interaction driven by staff training and in-office personalized/curated messaging and education
  • Easy follow-up access to the provider
  • Virtual Reality pain management
  • Hospital bedside infotainment
  • Robots (telemedicine, delivery, welcome)
  • A remote patient monitoring/communication program
  • A user-friendly and readily available telemedicine service

Walking a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

In the classic film “The Doctor,” William Hurt plays an arrogant surgeon with a terrible bedside manner who is diagnosed with cancer and, as a result, experiences healthcare from a patient’s perspective, thereby enlightening him as to the failings of the medical system and injecting him with a newly found compassion and sensitivity for others. Seems like a good application of the golden rule, and one that could lend significant insight as to the best way for medical providers to advance the expanding patient-centric movement and consumerism of healthcare.

Just some health food for thought.

TechSperience Solutions Episode 109: PC... Aug 22, 2022 Connection

Today’s digital work environment has elevated cyber security risks for organizations. It’s no longer safe to only rely on software-based solutions. This podcast explores why we IT teams should adopt a “zero-trust” mindset and how you can equip your employees with the right tools, software, and training to help protect against costly cyberattacks.

Host: James Hilliard
Guest: Rhett Livengood, Director, Digital Business Enabling at Intel

Show Notes:

[1:00] PC security has evolved drastically since the pandemic. With remote and hybrid work environments the norm today, security risks are even greater. Data breaches are unfortunately more common and can cause detrimental impacts. In a recent report, the average financial loss is $4.2M per breach (IBM). 

[3:36] We're in a zero-trust environment now. Companies should assume that employees and organizations are being attacked at all times. No links or external data can be trusted. 

[5:00] VPNs are difficult to maintain and manage and are no longer an effective approach to protect employees. Adding more security software slows systems down and don't lead to a great user experience. 

[6:30] Intel has looked at building security right into the hardware as a solution without slowing down PCs to better support remote and hybrid employees.

[7:10] People are the weakest link when it comes to cyber security. Organizations should implement a recurring training program with reminders about multi-factor authentication, using unique and complex passwords, and paying attention to links. Phishing attacks are getting more sophisticated so highlighting what employees should look out for is key.

[10:05] Security patches should be seamless while also considering employees' working hours. Offering the user scheduling options is ideal to minimize business interruptions. 

[12:56] Security should be a holistic mindset. It requires consideration of the employee, technology, security threats, and training. Multilayer device protection should include software, application, and hardware.

[15:40] When deploying PCs to employees, IT teams should be mindful about the software that is being loaded. Each program will impact PC performance which, in turn, impacts the employee experience. Work with a partner to effectively integrate software and systems for optimal protection and user experience. 

[18:00] Protecting data involves encryption. Zero-trust applies here too. Nothing can be trusted.

[20:15] Security assessments and audits continue to be in the forefront when it comes to balancing employees' needs and tools, various work environments, and organizational security protocols.

[23:48] In the future, Artificial Intelligence will play a key role in automating security checks to help minimize user error.

TechSperience Solutions Episode 108: Current... Aug 19, 2022 Connection

Internal hiring managers looking to fill IT positions are currently experiencing a wide variety of challenges. From low unemployment rates to a high demand for IT professionals due to hybrid and remote work environments, traditional recruiting activities are no longer effective. Listen to the podcast to learn what new strategies are needed to fill your IT positions and how Connection's IT staffing services can help.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Patrick Dja Konan, Lifecycle Services IT Staffing Business Development Manager at Connection

Timothy Duffy, Lifecycle Services IT Staffing Business Development Manager at Connection

Show Notes:

[1:00] There are more IT positions open now than ever before.  

[1:47] The power dynamic has switched to those seeking employment. HR teams are under a lot of pressure to fill positions.

[3:48] Hybrid and remote working environments has led to the significant demand of IT staff.

[6:10] Internal hiring managers are under a lot of stress with many open positions to fill and retaining staff.  

[9:20] Hiring managers should understand the root need for the position. For IT and other specialized positions, working with a staffing company can help supplement the hiring team’s awareness of various industries and roles.  

[12:32] Posting positions on every job board will result in many applicants that won’t qualify. Hiring managers should work with IT teams on the job description and understand the career path.

[17:20] Less than 2% of IT professionals are unemployed. A best practice to find highly qualified candidates is to approach those that are currently employed elsewhere.   

[19:35] Nurture a talent pool by constantly interviewing and pre-screening candidates to build a database of potential applicants.

[23:10] Filling temporary positions and staff augmentation is another solution that may help for urgent project needs. There are many employees that enjoy contract or consultant work.

[26:05] Partnering with a company that specializes in IT staffing – that can serve as an extension of your HR team – can help businesses find the right candidate based on the need.  

AI in Retail: Key Considerations Before... Aug 18, 2022 Brian Gallagher

In today’s world where customers expect personalized products and services, artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are helping retailers meet their customers’ expectations. The impact of AI in retail can be compared to the evolution of mobile device solutions in retail 15 years ago. As a retailer, the AI journey cannot be ignored just as mobile engagement could not be ignored. AI can impact the entire retail enterprise. The decision that needs to be made is: What will provide the most value to your brand?  

Retailers need to consider AI from two vantage points to create an effective implementation roadmap: designed business impact and your organizational readiness.

What Business Impact Should I Focus On?

Consider your current pain points and future customer experience requirements. Do your own research and find experienced partners to help ensure your organization is able to consider the full impact AI can have on your current and future state of the business. Retailers can leverage AI for a host of opportunities:

  • Personalized Customer Experiences: Technologies such as facial recognition can identify customers revisiting a store and remember their likes and dislikes. Cameravision solutions can identify customers by family unit, likely age group, or even specific items like what type of phone they are carrying. The ability to then customize marketing, employee engagement, and offers can drive enormous increases in revenue and customer satisfaction.
  • Chatbot Support for Customers and Employees: Chatbots are becoming smarter every day. AI allows these solutions to consume enormous amounts of data to deliver amazing experiences. Chatbots can lead training, product information, suggestive selling, and more.
  • Employee Productivity Optimization: Employees in retail have an incredibly complex role from customer engagement to stocking to staffing and other operational functions. An AI solution can streamline workloads and optimize scheduling to improve productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Price Adjustment Flexibility: The ability to react to even the smallest changes in global, national, regional, and local spending trends can maximize the pricing and sell through of your products. Maximization of sales provides customers the best price while maximizing your inventory turn.
  • Improved Supply Chain Management: Maximize your inventory performance by allowing AI solutions to consume millions more data points than even the brightest planning minds could ever consider. By considering historical data and current trends, you can improve both inventory turns and customer experience.

How Ready Is Your Organization?

Business transformations all follow a similar journey. While the AI journey is no different on the surface, the processes require each organization to honestly explore the following:

Foundational Readiness: AI solutions require unique combinations of data management, device connectivity, edge computing devices, and software working in unison to create desired outcomes. AI cannot deliver maximum results without the systems and data to feed the AI engine.

Operational Readiness: AI solutions require unique skillsets from planners, marketers, and DevOps teams. Organizations needs to prepare by combining the best of traditional workforces and AI-specific workforces to reap the maximum benefits of the AI solution. AI is not simply a new tool for the existing workforce. It requires a workforce able to understand and interpret the outputs aligned with a new thinking and vision. Never walk away from traditional success matrices, but rather maximize them with new team models.

Transformational Readiness: AI solutions require the entire enterprise to be open and aligned to results of the solutions. AI transformations are not a program that can be driven from traditional top-down management. AI solutions require incredible amounts of organizational communication and transparency to succeed. AI outputs often call for immense changes in procedures, inventory engagement, and customer experiences. Transformation readiness is the key to maximizing any AI benefits. 

Remember, AI is a must for your business. It is just as critical as mobility solutions, omnichannel operations, and brand development. To better understand your organization’s AI readiness, visit our Power of Two partners to take a brief assessment and receive a complimentary customized report. You can also visit

Upgrade Your Technology for More Productive... Aug 17, 2022 Connection

Modern device management is less about technology than it is about providing a quality employee experience. It means providing employees the user interfaces, tools, and low-friction access with confidence around data security while enabling organizational device fleet management.

A recent Forrester report, commissioned by Intel, notes that just a 5 percent improvement in employee experience leads to a 3 percent increase in bottom-line revenues—and that nearly 60 percent of survey respondents noted that an employee’s satisfaction levels with technology have a substantial positive impact on their overall employee experience.1

Today’s reality means companies need to provide hybrid or remote workspace capabilities for optimal employee productivity and collaboration, whether employees are doing remote or even on-site work. Workplace transformation considers and then implements organizational IT readiness to support hybrid employees in multitasking effectively from various networks anywhere in the world.

As a result of these now fundamental requirements in workflow, environments, and IT infrastructure, an organization’s IT team needs to resolve several challenges.

  • Security: When the world switched to remote work, new attack surfaces and threat vectors emerged. Cyberattacks continue to expand in scale, scope, and frequency. Users and their data must both be protected, including when data is in motion using beyond-the-firewall networks.
  • Updates: Devices must be consistently scanned and updated to ensure they have the most current and stable systems and applications. This includes new and previously released drivers such as support software, BIOS, utilities, firmware, and patches.
  • Permissions and deletions: Access to applications must be protected, and deleted data must be handled securely.
  • Infrastructure: The right infrastructure integrates all system elements, including applications and workload balancing for optimal operations for both on-site and remote work environments. Modern device management helps ensure operational efficiency around identity management, flexible hybrid workspaces, and corporate compliance with regulatory standards.

How the Right Hardware Can Support Workplace Transformation

Having the right equipment and infrastructure ensures IT and organizational success. Key elements of a solid systems infrastructure will address several challenges.

  • Cybersecurity: Guard a hybrid work environment against ever-evolving cybersecurity threats beginning with hardware, activated by software. Intel delivers technology that improves foundational security, data and workload protection, and software reliability—even beyond the firewall.
  • Remote management: In today’s hybrid, remote, and on-site work environments, IT teams cannot physically be everywhere. However, with devices running on the Intel vPro® platform, the IT team can be everywhere via remote management capabilities. The Intel vPro® platform comes with Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) and Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel® EMA) to help IT teams remotely discover, repair, and protect devices across the entire organization—adding simplicity to the support process and helping reduce disruption for employees.
  • Collaboration: Today’s employees need technology to enable digital workspaces for productive collaboration, communication, content management, and information flow throughout projects and initiatives. Connection’s Modern Device Management Services ensure the right infrastructure is in place for optimal efficiency across employee networks.
  • Compliance: Respond to growing regulatory compliance pressures with hardware for encryption when it comes to applications access, data wipes, and location-based access. Intel offers hardware-based memory encryption that isolates specific application code and data in memory through Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX). Essentially, this built-in capability enables companies to protect the section of the memory that’s executing the code.
  • Infrastructure: Ensure your organization has the right infrastructure to appropriately support functions such as applications frameworks, integrations, workload balancing, and 5G networking with Intel® hardware. The Intel® Xeon® Scalable platform provides a foundation for data center agility and scalability, as this innovative processor provides significant levels of capabilities and convergence across compute, storage, memory, network, and security.

Altogether, it’s critical to update your business infrastructure and devices not only for security, remote management, compliance, and infrastructure but also for successful workplace transformation. Even more, this kind of investment also ensures greater employee satisfaction, including in hybrid or remote work environments.

Connection’s Windows 10 Deployment and Management Service helps your organization navigate infrastructure upgrades. Our guidance allows your IT team to remain focused on operations throughout the workplace transformation process as well as support employees in having an optimal experience. And Connection’s Modern Device Management Services provide strategic infrastructure enhancements for optimal fleet management.

Connection’s Workplace Transformation Services can help your organization configure the IT infrastructure you need, so all your IT team needs to do is push the button to deploy. With expertise in Intel® technologies, Windows 10 deployment, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and modern device management, Connection is ready to complement your internal efforts toward workplace transformation.

1. “Invest In Employee Experience (EX), Drive Your Bottom Line Growth,” Forrester, October 2020, 1. Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation. No product or component can be absolutely secure. Your costs and results may vary. © Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Do I Need SIEM Technology? Aug 16, 2022 Bill Virtue

As our threat landscape continues to evolve, businesses are looking for solutions to help mitigate cyber threats. The Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) market is a $4.2B market and is expected to grow to over $5 billion by 2025. SIEM platforms collect and analyze data from networks, applications, servers, and/or devices and alert users of a potential cyberattack. When the system detects an event that deviates from pre-built or custom-built rules, an alert will trigger via a personalized user interface for quick resolution.

Compliance obligations—such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR and others—often require organizations to aggregate, store, and log large amounts of data to generate insight into network security threats. Earlier versions of SIEMs were not able to keep pace with the volume of data they were ingesting, and therefore, not able to alert in real-time or even near real-time. Not to mention, the skills required to operate and tune the SIEM was a constant drain on IT and security resources. SIEM architecture, performance, and training were also big factors for businesses deciding to bring a SIEM solution inhouse or not.

New SIEM technology

Newer SIEM technology consumes data from multiple sources—not just anti-virus events and firewall logs—and can do all the normalization and correlation. Many of the performance issues of earlier SIEMs have since been addressed by cloud-based resources supported by a scalable architecture, and in some cases, replacing the legacy database or data warehouse with a data lake. The data lake accommodates for data growth and allows pointing almost any device at the SIEM for data collection and correlation, while keeping pace with data ingestion rates.

SIEM vendors have also added machine learning capabilities to address user and entity behavior (UBA/UEBA). By modeling behavior, SIEM solutions can develop a baseline of “normal” behavior and expose any suspicious activities when a specified threshold is exceeded. Behavior analytics can be correlated with other activities to help detect lateral movement of an attacker and attack surface trajectory.

Other challenges with legacy SIEM technologies involved understanding query language, building complex queries and rules to detect specific events, and managing large numbers of false positives. Today’s SIEM technology still requires some level of aptitude, but many solutions are now equipped with an easy-to-understand user interface (UI) and pre-defined workflows based on use cases.

Security Remediation Workflows

Today’s SIEMs are often paired with security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR). One of the benefits of SOAR is orchestration. Businesses have a number of resources and tools used to understand threats that exist or are evolving on the network. Orchestration centralizes data collected from vulnerability scanners, threat intelligence subscriptions, and other data sources that a SIEM does not collect. This orchestration feature enhances the understanding of compromising indicators and delivers visibility across multiple tools and threat sources.

SOAR can also automate the repetitive tasks a security analyst performs as part of incident response. Older SIEM technology only provided the alert data. The analyst would then need to perform the tasks necessary to determine root cause. Many of these tasks can now be automated using SOAR.

Lastly, SOAR can respond to detected threats by removing the threat itself from the network. This streamlines the amount of time it takes to respond to a threat and drastically reduces the overall operating cost.

Benefits of a SIEM / SOAR Solution

Sophisticated attacks require complex threat detection and protection. Newer SIEMs can take in any data, and once tuned properly, provide the alerting needed for investigation. SIEMs are also used for threat-hunting: delivering the data required to detect threats that exist within the network and improving security operation efficiency. Adding SOAR increases the power to identify threats using other security tools and automates the workflow and response process.

Managed SIEM

Purchasing and deploying a SIEM on-premises can be an expensive endeavor. It means you need the infrastructure to support it, the additional cost of servers and storage, and the expertise to manage it.

A managed SIEM allows an organization to partner with a third party service provider who can monitor the company’s network for potential indicators of compromise (IoC). This often includes endpoint detection and response (EDR) as part of that managed service. Given the skills gap in security expertise, many companies look at outsourcing SIEM technology to leverage the expertise of the partner to help manage security alerts and protect the business from cyber threats. This takes some of the burden off your company’s security team, but will require you to work with the partner to ensure the setup, monitoring, alerting, and reporting complement the capabilities of your security analysts and meet your business’s SLA requirements. For resources to assist with SIEM selection or a managed SIEM solution, contact the experts at Connection today.

Microsoft Further Supports the Hybrid... Aug 11, 2022 Makayla Mota

Did you know Microsoft Teams has over 270 million monthly active users? It is the most used and most advanced platform for work, and the only solution with meetings, calls, chats, collaboration, and business process automation all in the flow of work. It is the intersection where work, data, and business process come together.

For the past few years, Microsoft Teams has been a game-changer in both remote and hybrid work environments and with the recent announcements and updates (they have introduced over 450 new features in the past year alone!), it is easy to see Microsoft continues to come up with innovative ways to support employees in our ever-changing world. 

Let’s start with the most recent updates from July’s Microsoft Inspire 2022: 

Excel Live

Microsoft announced at Inspire 2022 their plans to incorporate the Live feature that has been available in PowerPoint since early this year into Excel. This will allow for real-time collaboration on Excel content within a Teams meeting. The feature will be live in public preview at the end of August and will let users share their Excel workbooks via the share tray thereby giving editing access to all meeting attendees directly from the meeting screen. Everyone editing the workbook can create their own custom views to sort and filter data using Sheet Views without disrupting anyone else’s view. Users also can set permissions and use the “Show Changes” feature to make sure edits were made during the meeting.

Video Clip

Another exciting announcement at Inspire was the addition of Video Clip to Teams. The Video Clip feature lets the user create, send, and view short videos as an alternative to sending out messages in the chat function for the times when text, emoji, or even gifs just won’t cut it. Users will see a small video icon in the chat box where they can record a message and edit the length, thereby saving the time of typing it out while also, in some cases, providing a better way convey the meaning of the message. 

Collaborative Annotations

If you enable Annotation mode while sharing your desktop, users can now draw, type, and react on top of the content shared in a meeting! Powered by Microsoft Whiteboard, Collaborative Annotations is now generally available. Meeting attendees will see the Annotations toolbar giving them access to a rich toolset to add input and drive the discussion further, adding to the collaborative nature of Microsoft Teams.

Teams Connect

Internal and external collaboration! Teams Connect is an ultra-modern and hybrid-friendly feature that allows organizations to collaborate in a channel or via chat without having to switch tenants. Teams Connect has been in preview since March, but several improvements were announced, as it is scheduled to move into general availability mid-August. Updates include an increase of shared channels from 50 to 200—with 200 Standard, 30 Private, and 200 shared per team—enhancement to the external user’s chat experiences now allowing for the use of emojis and gifs, enhanced admin reporting, better security, and app support for external users, as well as the functionality to create apps within shared channels for developers.

Chat with Self

You may have noticed yourself pinned to the top of your chats in Teams—I know I recently did! The Chat with Self feature was designed to give users a place to store notes, save drafts and files, even send themselves reminders or midweek motivational gifs. An easy way to stay organized and on top of your workload no matter where you are.

New Webinar Features

If you use Teams as your platform to host virtual trainings, webinars or customer meetings, some cool new features have been added to enhance the virtual meeting experience. Users can now set up internal or external webinars, can select up to 10 co-organizers, and can post information such as bio, headshot, and LinkedIn profile of speakers prior to the event. Taking a cue from Teams Live Events, you can also now incorporate a structured Q&A within your meeting allowing for attendees and speakers to interact more seamlessly in a moderator-based environment. 


Now generally available, LinkedIn integration within Teams allows users to see contacts’ details on LinkedIn through calls, meetings, and chats—creating that interconnectivity that drives the hybrid work model.

Teams Chats within Dynamics 365

It is now possible to embed Teams chat within Dynamics 365, which will be especially helpful for salespeople to streamline workflow between the two platforms. Users can now link new and existing chats to Dynamics 365 records like sales opportunities and service records. This feature is currently in public preview but will be moving to general availability soon.

Live Share

Live Share in Teams Meetings was announced at Microsoft Build in May and creates a collaborative environment that allows meeting participants to co-create, co-watch, and co-edit projects during the meeting, thereby extending the passive screen-sharing experience into a rich collaborative environment. Using the power of Fluid Framework, developers can now use new preview extensions to the Teams SDK to extend the Teams app and create Live Share experiences. Developers from, Hexagon, Skillsoft, MakeCode, Accenture, Parabol, and Hexagon are early partners building Live Share experiences.

Although the work experience has changed significantly over the past few years, Microsoft continues to add both simple and complex features to its already robust repertoire of products and platforms—improving the user experience while seamlessly adapting to the ever-changing work model. As someone who has been using Teams since the very beginning, I can say with all honesty that it keeps getting better and better. 

Have questions about Teams and the new features? Reach out to a Connection expert today. 

4 Tips to Keep in Mind When Managing Your... Aug 09, 2022 Heather Eakin

I love the cloud. A lot. 

You have a business problem? There is a cloud option that will solve it. There are big clouds that do practically everything, like AWS and Azure. And there are specialty clouds that focus on just specific services, like Wasabi cloud storage. And of course, there are even as-a-service cloud-based applications or micro-services that many of us use every day, like Office 365, Dropbox, Concur, and Smartsheet. You probably even have your own private cloud in the data center.

There are a lot of good reasons that the cloud is more ingrained into technology today. Cloud services can allow your business more agility when spinning up new applications and workloads or recovering from a disaster recovery event. A business can also see accounting benefits by categorizing traditional capital expenses (CAPEX) as operational expenses (OPEX).

With all these new benefits that you gain by leveraging these solutions, there are a few extra areas that every business needs to take into consideration when operating in a cloud model:

1. Develop a company cloud policy

The cloud is a beneficial tool because it is so agile and provides near-immediate resources. However, it can be just as easy for a department to consume cloud services while charging it to the company credit card, leading to cloud sprawl or shadow IT. If IT doesn't know about your new environment, you can bet they aren't making sure it is being backed up. Also, data protection isn't included out of the box with many cloud services. 

Without a comprehensive company cloud policy, your data might not be secured correctly, leaving vulnerabilities for hackers or exposure to ransomware. This could also potentially place the company in non-compliance with industry regulations. 

Bottom line: allowing your end users to bypass IT puts your business at risk and decreases your IT department's ability to protect and support you.

2. Manage your cloud sprawl

Cloud services accrue costs quickly, especially when you have a lot of them. Having too many services might lead to an overlap of capabilities in certain areas which will result in redundant costs. 

Truthfully, some overlap is inevitable. You might be using AWS for your infrastructure and using Wasabi as your cloud storage platform. Obviously, AWS has Glacier for archiving, but you might choose to bring in another potentially lower-cost provider for added resiliency of data locations and regions, or simply because you prefer the service.

Be sure as you engage multiple cloud providers that you are making choices based on business needs and not due to lack of planning or understanding of your existing capabilities. No one should sign a contract with a new vendor just to find out that the same service is already provided through another contract, and it just isn't being used.

3. Choose a management strategy

The more cloud environments you adopt, the more complex they are to manage, especially since each environment has its own suite of management tools. This is fine when you have a small number of cloud partners, since there are not that many different tools to manage. But as your business onboards with more cloud providers, you should minimize the number of tools in use. It is easy to get lost in the tangle of multiple management methods and very difficult to become proficient in each. Trying to maintain too many of these tools often leads to situations in which important data are not reviewed in a timely manner, potentially increasing costs. 

Fortunately, there has been a lot of development in this space. Tools or services like CloudCheckr or Flexera One (formerly Risc Networks) are available for management of multiple clouds. Industry leaders are also developing proprietary solutions to help in this area. For example, VMware Cloud Foundation  can manage your on-premises vSphere environment and your VMC instances from one console. Dell APEX and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Greenlake both offer an as-a-service overlay to infrastructure management.

The challenge is less about finding a tool: It's about determining which one will suit your needs best. 

4. Keep data mobility in mind as you onboard new cloud offerings

What is the process to cancel a cloud service contract? What are the ingress and egress charges for a specific provider? 

If you have a cloud backup repository and want to change vendors, it might be more cost effective—due to egress changes and other potential micro-charges—to start using the new service and leave the existing one in place until the backups age out. 

We live in a multi-cloud world, and it is here to stay. Take the time to evaluate your cloud options and make sure they support your overall IT and business strategy. If you need help, engage an expert. Connection has cloud-focused technical experts, as well as consultants who can assist you with strategic planning.

Inside Look: Life of a Connection Intern Aug 04, 2022 Connection

I started my internship at Connection in February of 2022. Currently, I am enrolled at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH, and I am working on obtaining a degree in business management, alongside studying communications. I was taking a class in Human Resource Management, and I reached out to Joan Evans, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Connection, to see if I could intern in her department as part of an honors project for the class. My experience in the class and at Connection has given me insight into the “HR world,” which I found to be incredibly interesting—especially after seeing Joan’s passion for the company and its employees. This made me wonder, could I see myself doing this? 

My favorite part of interning at Connection, and especially in HR, is the people. I have gained some incredible mentors throughout this process. One of the most important things to me is follow-through, and in this department, that is something I have noticed is important at Connection. The three people I’ve been working most closely with—Joan Evans, Sr. VP of Human Resources; Andrea Faraco, Director of Talent Acquisition; and Jen Tamposi, Executive Assistant—have all been amazing mentors. I have been working on various projects such as document organization, coordinating job descriptions, updating bonus entry spreadsheets, and more. I was even included in weekly remote meetings focused on launching a new, companywide employee engagement program. Jen has also done a fantastic job of making sure I can meet with as many people as possible to learn about their roles within the company. Not only am I learning through hands-on tasks, but I’m also learning directly from people in other departments.

My experience at Connection has been nothing but positive, and I look forward to a possible future with the company. If I were to say one thing to anyone thinking about interning at Connection, it would be “go for it”! The people you work with only want to help you succeed, and overall, care about you gaining the best experience possible. 

What is up next for me? My first goal is to enjoy the rest of my summer. After that, my next goal is to finish off the last two semesters, graduate in May, and follow that with finding a job to set myself up for success. 

Olivia Conforti is an intern at Connection. She is pursuing a business management degree with a minor in communications at Franklin Pierce University. She serves as a mentor through the university’s Center for Academic Excellence program and enjoys photography in her free time.

“It Will Never Happen to Us”: A Look... Aug 03, 2022 Joseph Salzer

We often read the news and learn of high-profile ransomware attacks on companies and organizations. When we read these stories, many of us think of ransomware attacks as something that only happens to “the other guys.” This is especially true when it comes to smaller organizations, as there seems to be a false narrative that ransomware attacks only affect larger organizations or high-profile companies. However, the reality is that no organization, regardless of size, is ransomware-proof. In fact, when it comes to the current surge in ransomware attacks, it becomes a question of when not if. An organization’s ability to survive an attack depends on their preparedness and ability to minimize damage.

By the Numbers

According to latest statistics, ransomware attacks have increased by 62% year-over-year, making this type of attack the most prevalent cybersecurity threat. A 2022 report indicated that a whopping 76% of organizations surveyed were targets of at least one ransomware attack in the last 12 months. In fact, the average ransomware attack frequency was approximately 2.4 attacks in the last 12 months. The size of the organization attacked seems irrelevant as most ransomware attacks are random instead of targeted. The following diagram shows the frequency of ransomware attacks by employee size:

A frightening statistic is that of companies surveyed, over 40% reported data loss and downtime due to a ransomware attack. In various cases, the attack resulted in partial or complete data loss even after a ransom was paid.

When we consider the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks and the high data encryption rate, it becomes clear that an organization’s ability to survive a ransomware attack depends on preparedness and the approach taken to mitigate such attacks. It is no longer enough to prepare for what to do “if we get attacked” but rather to prepare for “when we get attacked.” Preparing for the inevitable or always yields the best results and provides the best damage control options.

Backup Immutability

Being a victim of a ransomware attack is indeed scary and can have an organization-wide impact, but there are various steps that can be taken to minimize damage and reduce the risk of data loss. When it comes to ransomware, it is important to think about prevention; however, it is more critical to focus on mitigation and damage control. 

Tip #1: Develop a well-defined contingency plan to help protect your data.

Despite having clearly defined security policies, ransomware attacks are difficult to prevent. As previously mentioned, when we focus on the “when” instead of the “if,” we can develop a well-defined contingency plan to better cope with an attack. One of the best ways to cope with an attack is to minimize the inflicted damage. In most cases, ransomware attacks go unnoticed for days or weeks, and when the attack is identified, it can be too late to prevent data encryption. Therefore, backups play an even more critical role now than they have in the past. We used to think of backups as something that was “nice to have” if we ever needed to recover lost data (a file here, a VM there, etc.). However, backups are now the last line of defense when there is a ransomware attack. It is for this reason that ransomware attacks are increasingly targeting backup images. In the past, backups were not thought of as being part of an organization’s security practices, however, today backups play a crucial role in an organization’s ability to recover from a cybersecurity attack. 

One of best solutions available to survive a ransomware attack and minimize damage is backup immutability. When backup immutability is implemented, it prevents backup images from being modified, deleted, or encrypted after they have been written to the backup target. This ensures that if an organization experiences a ransomware attack today, yesterday’s backups are immutable; therefore, they cannot be altered or deleted. Since immutability prevents any modification to the backup images while the immutability period is active, backup images cannot be encrypted by a ransomware attack. This allows for quick data restores to a point in time prior to the attack. Data loss (if any) is limited to the changes that took place from the time the backup image was written to when the attack occurred. This can be further mitigated by establishing clearly defined SLAs and performing more frequent backups.

Immutability: Cloud vs. On-premises

When it comes to immutability, there are some pre-requisites that must be met. First, the backup application must support immutability. Second, the backup target or repository must also support immutability. Immutable backup targets can be located on-premises for quick and fast restores, or they can reside in cloud object storage. The ability to have on-premises immutable storage is highly recommended; however, due to hardware acquisition costs, it may not always be an option. In these cases, immutability on cloud object storage provides an inexpensive way to leverage backup image immutability. If the backup application supports immutability, enabling immutability on cloud object storage is a straightforward process requiring minimal reconfiguration.

On-premises immutability is a bit more complex to deploy, but it does provide some advantages over cloud object storage (i.e., eliminates cloud data transfer costs and increases recoverability speed). However, it tends to be a more expensive solution to deploy due to hardware acquisition costs. 

Tip #2: Leverage immutability both on-premises and cloud (preferably both leveraging object storage) as your budget allows.

Given the likelihood of a ransomware attack, backup image immutability should be a critical component of every organization’s data protection and cybersecurity response strategies. 

No More Denial—Your Organization Will Be Hit with Ransomware Attacks

When we read that of 3300 organizations surveyed, 76% experienced at least one ransomware attack, it becomes clear that a ransomware attack is likely to occur. Clearly defined security practices help minimize external risk but given the fact that most attacks begin internally through phishing, clickbait, etc., a ransomware attack is almost inevitable. This makes backup immutability one of the best tools available to do damage control and ensure recoverability. Assuming the existing backup application and cloud storage provider support immutability, backup immutability is inexpensive and simple to implement. 

Tip #3: Include other security measures such as hardening (operating system and hypervisor) as well as airgap to further contain a ransomware attack and to reduce data loss risk. 

While the backup immutability does not reduce the risk of a ransomware attack, it increases an organization’s ability to cope with an attack. It also reduces or eliminates the need to make any ransom payments as encrypted data can easily be recovered. Given how successful and lucrative ransomware attacks are and their increased frequency, thinking that “it will never happen to us” is clearly the wrong approach. The sooner we begin thinking of how to respond to a ransomware attack “when it happens to us,” the better prepared we will be to cope with such an attack.

The Top Use Cases of AR in Manufacturing Aug 02, 2022 Ryan Spurr

When it comes to adopting new technologies, look no further than the home and the next generation of end users. I was visiting friends recently, and their kids were walking around the living room, virtually climbing a rock wall together while bumping into furniture. It became clear to me how ready this technology is and how future generations will expect its use in the workplace. It made me rethink its application in today’s manufacturing environment. 

With some research, it becomes clear that the technology is already here and ready for use in manufacturing. It’s estimated that augmented reality (AR) users will reach 1.73 billion by 2024, with much expansion outside of gaming and into practical business use cases. So what are some of the practical use cases being deployed in manufacturing? Are these use cases worth the investment? And are there more exciting or forward-looking use cases for organizations looking to leap ahead in this space? 

As I dug into the existing reasons one might leverage augmented reality solutions, I was blown away by the practicality of it and the partnerships available connecting devices with software, collaboration platforms, and data integration.

Augmented Collaboration

Collaboration is perhaps the most mature and viable use case, with many variants that deliver a reasonable return on investment for any business. These use cases were also heavily utilized during the pandemic and are now “battle-tested.”

For example, many clients have packaged disparate technologies, including a rolling cart, laptop, camera, and microphone. This cart is rolled around the facility to provide tours to external clients, partners, or employees—but it has its limitations. First, most factories are limited to who from the plant tour can participate in this collaboration session, limiting it to the person closest to the cart. Second, carts are limited to open spaces and flat surfaces. This approach quickly fails if a tour requires navigating tight spaces, visualizing factory equipment, or climbing stairs. 

Now imagine using a hands-free augmented reality device with integration to a collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex. You have a whole different experience for employees and remote guests. In this scenario, all key employees can wear a headset to hear, speak, and visualize any participant content—both physical and virtual. Because the devices are hands-free, tours are not bounded by any physical limitation, allowing the tour to go anywhere a person can. And best of all, these solutions enable virtual attendees to zoom, highlight areas of interest, interact, and share information with onsite attendees, making the collaborative experience more productive for all involved. 

Augmented Reality

Beyond collaboration, native augmented reality use cases and solutions are what the technology was intended for. In these use cases, the devices and software stitch together the real world with the digital to create a “mashup” experience for end users. This allows manufacturers to deliver hands-free interactive solutions that provide more than work instructions or insight about the production process.

These solutions integrate data from various sources to convey comprehensive insight into the working of facilities, machines, or products. Imagine incorporating data from PLCs, sensors, business systems, alerts, safety warnings, work order data, and SOPs into a single pane of glass that is easily visible and integrated with the physical environment. Try doing that on a traditional computer while assembling a vehicle, satellite, or medical device—or while walking the factory floor.

Imagine the ability to transform how employees collaborate, integrate data, and improve processes all through a single augmented platform. This is where the real power of augmented reality will lead us into the future and become more critical, given the challenges with the workforce, skillset management, and keeping pace with change across product design, production, and client experience.

Top Collaboration Use Cases

  • Augmented Troubleshooting and Repair: Returning the factory to operational status is always a top concern—and when equipment fails, it’s crucial to get engineers or third-party resources working to diagnose and repair failed equipment quickly. With augmented troubleshooting and repair, organizations can get the right resources in place virtually from anywhere in the world to speed return to operation. Engaging experts remotely can save time, speed resolution, eliminate travel and expenses, and possibly limit the disruption to an employee’s personal life.
  • Augmented Client or Partner Tours: For some manufacturers, it’s important to walk potential clients or partners through their factories to demonstrate compliance, adherence to standards, and maturity and to make third parties comfortable with their ability to produce. Whatever the reason, bringing remote individuals through a virtual tour is much easier. This can be especially helpful in production labs or environments where guests might represent obvious challenges like a risk to health, gowning, or space constraints—making a virtual augmented tour more favorable and practical to all parties involved.
  • Augmented Kaizen and Continuous Improvement: Not all resources exist onsite. With a process improvement initiative, it’s sometimes essential to bring many different resources together to assess a current process and make recommendations based on observations. With augmented collaboration platforms, any help can be part of the team regardless of location.
  • Augmented Audits: Many organizations are subject to audits as part of Sarbanes-Oxley or industry standards groups. This often requires the presence of a third party to ensure inventory, facility, security, or factory audits are truthfully and adequately conducted. The pandemic demonstrated how complex requirements such as this can be, but with augmented collaboration, any organization can conduct audit activities as usual with remote auditors shadowing job roles via augmented solutions. 
  • 3D Work Instructions: Move away from the desk or kiosk-based work instructions to deliver 3D operating procedures that enhance the experience for employees by integrating work instructions, steps, data collections, and visual overlays atop actual physical products to enhance assembly, quality assurance, or field maintenance activities.
  • 3D + IoT Insight: Fuse 3D and IoT data into a single experience for any job role in the factory. With the ability to look at a physical machine, building, or product, an employee can quickly visualize sensor data, inner workings, components, and health conditions with data from within the environment.

Hand-held AR Devices

There is a wide range of augmented reality devices on the market—their differences are more akin to their use cases and the environments used within than anything else. Various form factors include hand-held mobile devices like tablets and hands-free devices like augmented reality headsets.

Perhaps the most practical of devices are mobile phones and tablets. Many of today’s devices come with high-end cameras and augmented reality accelerators designed to optimize the end-user experience and maximize the functionality of applications running on these devices. With a wide range of mobile devices available, including commercial, rugged, ultra-rugged, and even intrinsically safe or sanitizable, these devices are a practical way to initiate early augmented reality initiatives or proof of concepts. Additionally, these mobile devices can be used by employees for many other job functions like training, actionable insight, digital forms, and workflow, accessing business systems, capturing subject matter knowledge, and much more.

Hands-free AR Devices

Unlike their counterparts, hands-free devices are designed specifically for augmented reality use cases. They allow employees to perform job duties without the restrictions of holding another device, make it easy to fuse their work environment and digital universe into one, and provide a great deal of hands-free interaction into a fully smart mobile device creating a truly immersive experience.

There are top-of-mind devices like Google Glass and Microsoft Halolens. Still, there are others, including RealWear, Movario, and Lenovo—each offering a range of augmented reality devices to fit your budget, capabilities, and regulatory requirements.

For example, some brands offer a single glass piece, while others provide dual. Some offer intrinsically safe and rugged versions designed to withstand the rigors of manufacturing or regulated environments where sanitization or explosive risk must be mitigated. Some are wired to a computer and connect to a smart device via Bluetooth; others are self-contained smart devices that support wireless and cellular connectivity. Selecting the “right” device comes down to the use cases, job roles, and the environment. 

AR Robots

Yes. Robots are also being utilized. Not all use cases are ideal for an employee (whether hand-held or hands-free) to provide virtual access to remote resources for extended periods. For this reason, remote-controlled robots integrated with augmented reality collaboration platforms can create an alternative approach to connecting remote resources with access to physical locations. It’s beneficial for tours, industrial engineering assessments, and kaizen events giving the remote resource freedom to virtually conduct their jobs onsite. 

Connection has a team focused on innovative solutions using robots, augmented work, and integration with business systems to help our clients with the evolving way we work and automate activities anywhere in a facility.

Connection Can Help

Augmented Reality is here, and it’s full of practical use cases that can deliver business results, augment and enhance the workforce, and transform how work gets done. If your company is considering augmented reality solutions, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice. Discover the practical use cases of augmented reality in manufacturing, from remote collaboration to virtual blueprint overlays and more.

Inside Look: Connection’s Product... Jul 27, 2022 Connection

Interested in becoming a Connection employee? You’ve come to the right place. Follow our "Inside Look" series to find out what it’s like to work at different departments within our organization. You will learn about our open positions and hear from our department leaders on what they look for in candidates during the interview process. This month we are featuring our Product Management organization.

What is the role of a Product Manager?

The Product Manager works collaboratively with the assigned partner(s) and internal resources to select key initiatives to drive growth and profitability. They are responsible for developing, implementing, and managing go-to-market strategies across all selling subsidiaries. They also direct cross-functional activities as detailed in the business development plan for their designated partner’s solutions.

What is it like to work in Connection’s Product Management Department? 

No two days are alike. There are times you will focus on sales strategies, working closely with our sellers to help them with opportunities. Other times, you will be working on marketing campaigns with your partnerboth internal with our sellers and external with our customers. There will be data analytics work, collaboration with our purchasing team on strategies, training sellers on the latest technology trends, direct engagement with our customers, operational improvement projects, and more.

How is the Product Management Department structured?

The department is set up between two technology pillars: Workplace Transformation and Data Center and Advanced Technology.

Think of Workplace Transformation as all the IT solutions that are close to you as you workdevices, displays, accessories, printersall the hardware technologies a user needs to be productive.

Our Data Center and Advanced Technology team focuses on the products and solutions that help power the underlying infrastructure supporting business critical operations such as compute, storage, and networking solutions, as well as the requisite software to support on-premises, hybrid, or cloud infrastructures.

Each group has a leadership team that supports our Product Managers and Specialists as they work closely with our partners to develop strategies to help our sellers bring the latest technologies to market.

What are the relationships like between the Product Management Department and other areas of the company?

Product Management is unique in that we engage with almost every other department in the company. We work closely with sales, purchasing, marketing, finance, data analytics, the Technology Integration and Distribution Center, operations, and IT to bring our knowledge of our partners’ solutions to our customers.

What kinds of personalities mesh best within the company?

We are looking for new team members who are creative, results oriented, open to learning, collaborative, supportive teammates, entrepreneurial spirits, and those who like to leverage technology to apply creative solutions for customer challenges. Having a passion for technology helps our teams influence and excite others!

What does it take to be successful in the Product Management Department at Connection?

Understanding technology, our partners, our sellers, and our customers. We will help enable you to be successful by showing how each of these things are connected.

If someone reading this was coming to interview tomorrow, what interview tips would you give them? 

Be prepared to speak to your experience and provide examples of transferrable skills. Our job requirements can be unique to our company and industry, and we have great results for people looking to migrate to a career in technology. The best way to do this is to help us understand your experiences.

What can new hires expect from joining the Product Management Department? 

Our department is very collaborative and supportive of one another. We want everyone in our department and company to succeed. We want to set you up for success and continue that throughout your career. In addition, Product Management opens up various opportunities to advance one’s career into various roles, from team leadership to advanced technical positions. There is great potential for team members to build their career in the Product Management Department.

Why Connection? 

Connection offers an opportunity to be part of a leading, Fortune 1000 national solutions provider in the IT industry and a chance to work closely with global IT OEM partners to help our customers calm the confusion of IT. The evolving landscape of IT allows for growth and new challenges every day. You will be working with a fantastic group of talented people who are grounded in the values that have been core to Connection since our founding in 1982: respect, excellence, and teamwork.

Ready to take the next step?

Can you see yourself working in our Product Management Department? We are hiring! Check out our open positions below or contact one of our hiring managers directly. 

Hiring Manager: Steven Carey
Partner Development Specialist - APC

Hiring Manager: Camden Haley
Business Development Specialist - Digital Signage

Hiring Manager: Katie MacKenzie
Partner Development Specialist - HP Peripherals

Partner Development Specialist - HP Supplies

Hiring Manager: David Olivier
Business Development Specialist - HPE

TechSperience Solutions Episode 107:... Jul 26, 2022 Connection

Today’s work-from-anywhere paradigm brings key challenges that organizations must address through IT transformation. This episode explores new PC solutions to address the needs of hybrid and remote employees while easing device management for IT staff. Topics include built-in security, accelerated compute capabilities, and automated data processing. 

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Rhett Livengood, Director, Digital Business Enabling at Intel

Show Notes:

[1:40] Top IT security and performance challenges we're seeing with remote/hybrid working.

[3:50] Work-from-home challenges from the personal perspective.

[7:55] How Intel strategized and mobilized to support the new remote working environment.

[11:00] Most PCs are outdated which can negatively impact security and performance.

[12:30] 12th Gen Intel Cores extend battery life by 2x and have embedded security. 

[14:00] Software in PCs can prioritize video conferencing usage for improved user experience.

[19:00] Benefits of hardware/software integration and partnering with the right provider.

[22:51] With the current supply chain limitations, developing an advanced plan, teaming with a solutions provider that can advise on the best of breed technologies, and access to global resources are critical.

[28:00] Modern PCs can accommodate for Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6 extended, 5G, and 6G to elevate the employee experience at home.

Smart Manufacturing: Achieve Better... Jul 25, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Most manufacturers are investing in smart manufacturing, which means increasing the number of edge-based computing devices in factories, warehouses, yards, and other environments. To put this transformation into perspective, let’s look at some compelling statistics: 30% of enterprise budgets will shift to edge computing solutions and roughly 75% of all enterprise data will be produced at the edge by 2025.

New demands for digital processes are driving this transformation at the edge including the need to collect data or automate at the edge, or even empower employees with actionable insight at the edge. Whatever the use case, this means deploying more end-user or headless devices into harsher environments where traditional commercial end-user devices fail to perform or survive. Let’s look at some reasons why fanless industrial products outperform in these manufacturing environments.

Resistant to Particulates

All environments have dust or particulates in the air. In manufacturing, the types and frequency of particulates can play a more impactful role. Some examples include wood-based manufacturing with wood particulates being a constant in the air, in poultry-based manufacturing, feathers and other particulates float to every part of the facility, or even in fabrication-based production environments where various metals or chemical particulates are sucked into factory computers via fans intended to keep computers cool and operating at optimal levels.

Whatever the industry, particulates can be harmful in a couple of ways. First, these particulates enter traditional end-use devices, jamming fans and preventing the adequate flow of air needed to cool components. If unchecked, these particulates lead to overheating and eventually early product failure. Second, some organizations create maintenance tasks to vacuum or blow out end-user devices periodically to combat this. This activity is non-value added, requires a machine to be taken out of service, and depending on the types of particulates in the air, could also represent a safety risk to employees tasked with cleaning.

Operable Under Varying Temperature Ranges

Many end-user devices used in smart manufacturing are placed in locations where traditional fan-cooled devices might not survive. For example, devices may be placed into production equipment, cases, kiosks, utility closets, or mounted in a way that exposes them to higher temperature variations or minimizes airflow.

Most fanless devices are designed to operate in more diverse temperate ranges. They can operate without fans for airflow and leverage fins to transfer heat away from the unit, making fanless or sealed devices more durable and flexible for use in manufacturing or other challenging environments that require compute at the edge.

Durable Components

Let’s take into consideration the components used in fanless or sealed devices. While some products may use less capable processors to control how much heat is produced, most industrial edge devices utilize higher-end components designed to withstand harsher environments and temperatures, and employ production processes to ensure that onboard components are better able to survive the environments they are designed to operate within.

Longer Lifecycle and Support Windows

Lastly, fanless edge devices are built with a longer lifecycle. While traditional end-user computing devices have a limited production and support cycle, most manufacturers of fanless edge devices understand that these devices will be deployed in environments where capital equipment, process equipment, test stands, and other critical equipment may be utilized. This means that these devices have a longer operational lifespan, deliver less downtime, and increase investment return.

This can be even more important if you deploy edge compute into a finished smart product where devices are expected to last, meet warranty requirements, minimize impact to design and production lifecycles, and offer a longer support window.

Connection Can Help

Many new products on the market offer protection for your smart manufacturing initiatives. These devices balance cooling, temperature, and vibration, feature higher performance components, and can perform in environments not suitable for typical end-user devices. These devices also come in many different form factors and may be configured with a wide range of ports and accessories to fit any manufacturing project needs. If your company is looking to deploy end-user or edge compute to support a smart manufacturing initiative, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

Three Technology Upgrades Retailers Should... Jul 20, 2022 Brian Gallagher

It feels like so much has changed in the past six months. The supply chain is broken, both for your business and for the digital transformations you had planned. Inflation has skyrocketed. Labor and experience shortages have impacted both your business and the digital transformations you had planned. Consumers have shifted spending priorities to experiential segments like dining and travel.

As tumultuous as all of this has been, the good news is that each one of these challenges require the same digital transformations you probably planned to invest in anyway. The “why” might have changed—but not the “how.” These three technology transformations can drive employee productivity, employee satisfaction, supply chain management, customer experience, and revenue all at the same time.

  1. Smart stores improve experience and optimize available labor: The amazing thing about a smart store is the ability to meet customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) expectations at the same time. Smart store technologies are wide reaching, but some of the most impactful areas include CameraVision, AI, and IoT devices. AI solutions that allow businesses to react in non-linear ways to elevate a shopping experience are creating the new “wow” experience. CameraVision is driving automated solutions for digital marketing, employee engagement, checkout, and security. IoT devices are eliminating mundane tasks and activating more productive employee activities. Applying AI to your most significant pain points not only eliminates the pain, it also elevates the business outcomes for customers and employees. These types of solutions are available for all sizes and segments within retail and hospitality. It sounds scary, but these solutions can fairly easily provide amazing new experiences for customers and employees.

  2. Mobile solutions are critical to support CX and EX: We can all agree that we live in a mobile world. Simply put, mobile solutions are the only way to keep employees engaged and productive. There were approximately 6.2 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2021, and retailers need to embrace this world across all positions within the brand. The savviest retailers will look to elevate the role of associates in the overall store experience through mobile technologies.

  3. Networking and security infrastructure is your top priority: Finally, the foundation of our new digital world can take center stage. For years, retail’s CIOs and CSOs have begged for investment. They warned of the ramifications to both customer experience and business productivity if smart investments were not supported. Retailers must now invest in infrastructure, while also implementing these new technologies at the same time. The digital foundation has never been more critical. The ability to meet customer expectations and improve employee productivity cannot be achieved without optimizing your networks and security solutions.

In a world that has seen enormous amounts of change in just the last six months, there is one constant. Technologies are leading the way in improving every single pain point you are facing. Prioritizing and implementing these technologies is a heavy lift for most lean IT retail organizations. Identifying the right partners to support fast and efficient deployment will be the key to all digital success. A great partner like Connection can support your new retail digital world from conceptual design through configuration and deployment.

If you’d like to talk more about how these technologies can impact your retail business or how Connection can help bring them to life, please contact us today!

AI in Healthcare Jul 19, 2022 Dr Keith Nelson

Artificial Intelligence (AI) . . . it seems like every IT organization is claiming they use it.  Feels like only yesterday when an avalanche of companies were rushing to adopt the descriptive label of dot com or cloud or crypto or artisanal. New day, new name.  But are all of the AI claims valid, or are the creators just relabeling traditional Boolean logic systems as a marketing tool?

The definition of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is generally accepted to be “a computer system that is able to perform tasks that ordinarily require human intelligence.” This means contextualizing data (understanding the underlying meaning of that which is being observed, as opposed to just recognizing key words or data elements).  It’s about comprehension and assimilation and (machine) learning.  Intuitive thought over recognition. Some common examples of AI applications include advanced web search engines (Google), recommendation systems (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon), understanding human speech (Siri, Alexa, ambient transcription), self-driving cars, and competitive gaming (chess, GO).  

Within the healthcare sphere, AI has heretofore mostly been applied to revenue cycle activities, cancer research (think IBM Watson) and drug discovery.  More recently, however, the technology is increasingly being leveraged for ground-level clinical endeavors like population health management, clinical decision support, genomic therapy and personalized medicine. Below is a quick primer on a few real-world AI healthcare applications currently in use:

Forecasting: Population Health Management

  • Risk stratification of patient populations (predicts which patients are at risk of developing a disease or experiencing an adverse event)
  • Predicting low-weight, high-risk pregnancies
  • Predicting medication adherence (via filled prescriptions) 
  • Determining the Risk of Hospital-Acquired Infections
    • Predicting Clinical Pathway* Efficacy (effectiveness of treatment plan) including the influence of social determinants

*A clinical pathway is a document outlining a standardized, evidence-based multidisciplinary management plan, which identifies the appropriate sequence of clinical interventions, timeframes, milestones and expected outcomes for a homogenous patient group. In other words, a specific treatment game plan.

  • Predicting Non-Adherent Patients
  • Predicting Errors/Complications (clinical or medication) 
  • Predicting Sepsis (infections), Atrial Fibrillation, Congestive Heart Failure, NICU need, Transplant Cases   
  • Determining the Risk of Bed Sores

Real-Time: Clinical and Administrative Support

  • Determining Treatment Effectiveness (quality of results)
  • Early Disease Detection  
  • Bed Management
  • Automatic removal of PHI (identity anonymization) for analytics sharing
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) applied to revenue cycle management (coding/posting/denial management), reading images, reducing readmissions, natural language processing (unstructured data)
  • Reading x-rays, other images and doppler ultrasound 
  • Diagnosing skin conditions

Although there are numerous “out-of-the-box” solutions available for the above use cases, each typically requires a degree of customization and tweaking in order to optimize the system to achieve the desired results. This means that an organization must either purchase the solution and dedicate staff to this task, or outsource the entire function to a third party (i.e. a population health management firm).

As previously discussed in other postings, the runway for AI applications contains endless possibilities that will be enabled as the technology evolves, such as autonomous robotic surgery, machine-driven diagnosing and clinical/surgical decision support. But the path to this evolution will no doubt contain multiple friction points, as healthcare providers gradually (and grudgingly) become disintermediated from their traditional roles and responsibilities, and the overall “trust factor” becomes elevated in importance. 

Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard . . .

Clearly, we can do better with respect to our current healthcare delivery in this country.  But are we OK with where all of this is going?  I guess time will tell.  As with any advancement in technology, AI adoption will be largely contingent upon value perception, utility, trust, user experience and the degree and quality of its impact on society.  We’ve learned time and again that new is not always better, but when it is, it’s usually pretty great.

Three Layers of PC Security to Protect... Jul 14, 2022 Connection

Security is more important than ever. Cyberattacks are relentless, increasing in number, complexity, and severity of attacks. Cybercriminals no longer just steal data but now commandeer system-wide compute resources.

Minimize Security Risks

One of the most common ways hackers get into systems is to access a compromised PC and get encryption keys, passwords, and sensitive data. Many organizations rely on software-based security while hackers continue to evolve their techniques to go beyond software to hardware infrastructure vulnerabilities. This presents a challenge for the IT team, which must manage PC fleets, including security for hybrid or remote locations, while meeting regulatory compliance requirements for data localization and privacy.

The solution is to invest in hardware-based technology that protects information security from endpoint to network edge to cloud. That means defense at each layer of infrastructure and applications, including the hardware, BIOS/firmware, operating system (OS), and virtualization machines (VMs).

Intel has built and evolved the Intel vPro® platform to provide the most comprehensive security for businesses.The goal of each new generation is to reduce the attack surface, adding more defense-in-depth and zero-trust security protections up and down the stack.

Multi-Layered Hardware Protection

As an example of this security assurance, Intel® Hardware Shield on the Intel vPro1 platform comes with three groups of security technologies built into each layer of the processor, meaning they work upon system boot without any extra steps or IT enablement. These protections help ensure safety in hybrid or remote work environments.

  1. At the firmware and below-the-OS security layer, Intel Hardware Shield technologies ensure only untampered firmware and trusted OS images will load with Intel® BIOS Guard and Secure Boot.
  2. Within the application and data protections layer, defense is enhanced through virtualization-based security and hardware-based encryption that help protect endpoint applications and data at every layer without impacting the user experience.
  3. At the advanced threat detections layer, monitoring CPU behavior and GPU offloading for potential attack activity can help ward off malware that evades traditional antivirus software and mitigate extreme attacks like control-flow hijacking, ransomware, and crypto mining.

Also included in the security ecosystem within the Intel vPro platform is Intel® Threat Detection Technology (Intel® TDT). This technology uses a combination of CPU telemetry and machine learning (ML) heuristics to detect—in real time—anomalous activity and potential threats that leave a footprint on the Intel® CPU performance monitoring unit (PMU), which sits beneath applications, the OS, and virtualization layers on the system. In other words, this helps address supply chain–style attacks that infect business applications. 

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint will soon leverage Intel TDT to help detect ransomware cryptojacking and to perform accelerated memory scanning on hundreds of millions of endpoints. In fact, Microsoft ensures security in the operating system for high levels of hardware, software, and identity protection features.

Security Standards

When it comes to industry security standards, Intel follows rigorous policies and procedures spelled out in the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) to integrate security principles and privacy tenets at every step of hardware and software development. Intel has dedicated experts driving a security-first mindset that starts with research and design and doesn’t stop until products reach end of service.

Further accelerating adherence to industry security standards, the Intel vPro platform delivers 47 built-in MITRE ATT&CK countermeasures.2 In addition, Intel worked with security expert Coalfire to help validate how procuring an Intel vPro platform-based PC provides a meaningful accelerator for adopting security standards and best practice initiatives. The Coalfire report maps out how Intel vPro platform capabilities help achieve support for five key NIST, TCG, and FIPS security standards.

The Intel vPro platform also comes with remote management capabilities to help with fleet security so the IT team can administer processes at both the software and hardware level. This means devices can be monitored, maintained, and managed wherever they are, including ensuring devices have current operating systems, antivirus technologies, and malware-scanning software. Two of the tools the Intel vPro platform provides for remote device management are as follows:

  • Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) provides persistent out-of-band connectivity that operates independently of the OS, allowing fixes to a wide range of systems issues—even when the OS is down in a hybrid or remote work environment.
  • Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel® EMA) enables cloud-based Intel AMT remote management capabilities for devices outside the firewall.

Altogether, Intel Hardware Shield on the Intel vPro platform provides the most comprehensive off-the-shelf, built-in PC security for your business3 while providing the IT team a direct path to remote device management.

Workplace Transformation

As sophisticated attacks continue to evade conventional tools and processes, IT security teams must adopt new technologies, including hardware-based solutions, to deploy new detection and response capabilities. Intel infrastructure ensures you have the protection you need for successful workplace transformation. 

When it comes to workplace transformation, organizations cannot afford to rely on software-based security alone. Invest in the right hardware-based solutions for confidence in a secure hybrid or remote work environment for data and infrastructure safety as well as employee productivity and job satisfaction.

Connection’s security practice can help with industry-leading assessments, analysis, and technology planning and integration. Visit our Workplace Transformation Services for more information or contact your Account Manager to learn how our collaboration with Intel, Microsoft, and other equipment manufacturers deliver secure PC solutions.

Additional resources on security technologies

Intel Hardware Shield Overview

Intel Hardware Shield – Below-the-OS Security

Intel Virtualization Technologies

Advanced Threat Protections White Paper

Cross-Platform Feature Comparison


  1. As measured by the unrivaled combination of above- and below-the-OS security capabilities, app and data protections, and advanced threat protections the Intel vPro® platform delivers for any size business, as well as Intel’s security-first approach to product design, manufacture, and support. All business PCs built on the Intel vPro platform have been validated against rigorous specifications, including unique hardware-based security features. See (platforms) for details. No product or component can be absolutely secure.
  2. See (platforms) for details. No product or component can be absolutely secure.
  3. All versions of the Intel vPro® platform require an eligible Intel® Core™ processor, a supported operating system, Intel® LAN and/or WLAN silicon, firmware enhancements, and other hardware and software necessary to deliver the manageability use cases, security features, system performance, and stability that define the platform. See for details.

Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation. No product or component can be absolutely secure. Your costs and results may vary.

© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Get All the News From Microsoft Build Jul 13, 2022 Makayla Mota

The annual Microsoft Build conference is a unique event and experience for developers by developers. This year’s virtual event featured several speakers from Microsoft—including Satya Nadella, Kevin Scott, Amanda Silver, Scott Guthrie, and Kathleen Mitford—and included a slew of announcements, product updates, and releases. Now that we’ve had about a month to digest all the exciting news, here is a roundup of the highlights. If you haven’t already, I would recommend checking out Microsoft’s Book of News detailing everything covered at the conference this year, and you can also catch up on key moments and watch all the on-demand content here!

Azure Migration and Modernization

Microsoft announced the addition of features to streamline cloud migration and modernization, such as:

  • Agentless discovery and grouping: This feature is generally available and ensures all components are identified and included in a move to Azure.
  • Azure SQL assessment improvements: This feature is in preview and will help to improve customer experience. New assessments include recommendations and support.
  • Pause and resume of migration function: This feature is also in preview and allows users to have control in scheduling migrations during slower periods.

Azure API Management Updates

The wonderous hybrid and multicloud Azure API Management platform that has the capacity to manage APIs across all environments also received the following updates:

  • GraphQL passthrough support: In addition to the Azure API Management benefits like security, observability, and reduced latency for their Graph APIs, customers can also access GraphQL-specific features like easily adding GraphQL services as APIs and running text queries in the Azure and developer portals.
  • Synthetic GraphQL and Token Store are both in preview.

Learn more about this update


Live Share in Teams Meetings creates a collaborative environment, allowing meeting participants to co-create, co-watch, and co-edit things during the meeting—thereby extending the passive screen-sharing experience into a rich collaborative environment. Using the power of Fluid Framework, developers can now use new preview extensions to the Teams SDK to extend the Teams app and create Live Share experiences. Developers from, Hexagon, Skillsoft, MakeCode, Accenture, Parabol, and Hexagon are early partners building Live Share experiences.

Live Share On-demand Session

The Power App Collaboration Controls go live this summer enabling developers to drag and drop collaboration features in Teams and Microsoft 365, such as chat, meetings, task, files, and approvals, into Power Apps—thereby streamlining and simplifying the flow of work and building custom collaborative experiences.

Microsoft Teams Collaboration Controls in Power Apps Live Session


New features will be added to OneNote, such as an updated draw tab, page sorting, and a new share window. OneNote will also be given the Windows 11 treatment with a visual refresh including rounded corners and revamped animations in the navigation section, full-screen mode, section tabs, and notebook dropdowns.

Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform

Microsoft Build also included the introduction of Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform! This is a seamless data platform that boasts the ability to integrate databases, analytics, and governance, so you can spend more time creating value in your organization than managing and integrating your data estate.  

Microsoft Learn

New enhancements were made to the Microsoft Learn platform, including the Exam Readiness Zone on Learn TV, which provides everything you need—training, study guides, Microsoft Official Practice Tests, and more—to ensure that you are ready to pass your Microsoft Exam and/or certification. Microsoft Learn Cloud Games is also now available! Connect with your peers to role-play through real-world tech problems by implementing Microsoft technologies and solutions in a risk-free, simulated environment. It's a great way to level up your knowledge, technical skills, and experience.

Datamart in Power BI

Now in preview, the new Datamart capabilities in Power BI Premium allow for all users, regardless of coding experience, to build datamarts that can be centrally managed with workloads up to 100GB. This powerful addition both lessens the load on IT and enables users to discover their own insights from independent and dependent data sets.

Windows and Edge

With the recent retirement of Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge now provides backwards compatibility in Internet Explorer mode for users that still need access to Internet Explorer based apps. This is huge for Web and app developers, as it means no longer needing to work backward for IE11 compatibility and the continued support embedding Web content on the MSHTML (Trident) engine.

Because Windows is an open platform, developers can design Windows apps using the software of their choice. Several updates and improvements have been made across Windows developer technologies:

  • The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is now available in the Microsoft Store. As an essential tool for many developers, engineers, and others with Linux workflows for the cloud and Web, this addition to the Microsoft Store makes it easier to install and update.
  • Windows Subsystem for Android is currently in preview and available in the Microsoft store. The new updates include windowing and resizing improvements, a robust app catalog, developer tool integration, and enhanced networking.
  • Windows App SDK 1.1 Update includes new features such as Fluent visual materials, updated desktop windowing APIs, and performance improvements.
  • Tooling Updates include Template Studio, updated Edge developer tools, and .NET Upgrade Assistant.
  • Widgets for Windows 11 is a fresh view into app content for users.
  • Hybrid Loop is used for building AI experiences across cloud and edge.

For more information on anything Microsoft Build, please visit the official Microsoft Build site. I can’t wait to start seeing some of these new features and tools in action! You can also visit the Microsoft showcase page to see the latest solutions or to contact a Connection Account Manager.

Intrinsically Safe Devices Avoid Explosive... Jul 11, 2022 Ryan Spurr

As manufacturers advance smart manufacturing initiatives, add digital work instructions and traceability, or deliver actionable insight to more frontline workers, most think about form factor, security, and durability. However, some manufacturers have to go one step further—to prevent the risk of explosion or fire. This requirement stems from regulations, corporate policies, and procedures and is simply part of a safe work environment. To eliminate the risk of ignition associated with smart technologies such as end-user computing devices or tablets, the hardware must be certified to prevent heat and spark (that source of ignition) from being allowed into areas where there is the possibility or always present danger of combustion. 

The most common industries typically impacted include chemical, pharmaceutical, plastics, and oil and gas manufacturing. Still, we see it in food and beverage or textile manufacturing where at-risk chemicals or particulates may be present in the production processes.

Does your company have requirements for intrinsically safe devices? Are you struggling to find solutions for end-user devices that comply while helping your business adopt modern digital workforce platforms?

Safety in Hazardous Locations Must Come First

Safety is always number one in manufacturing, and in some sub-industries, the risk of fire or explosion is serious. Depending on the kind of manufacturing business, this risk can be limited to a few areas where chemicals, gases, or particulates may be present—or they could represent the majority of your operations. Whatever the use case, these spaces have traditionally banned commercial or digital technologies like computers, tablets, phones, and even IIoT sensors because of their dangers. 

Regulation of hazardous locations (HazLoc) varies by region of the world. While the United States is migrating to international standards (IECEx), it has historically leveraged the ANSI / National Electrical Code (NEC) to classify the type of hazardous environment correctly and what measures the device must comply with to be safely used and avoid combustion.  

According to ANSI / NEC, this is generally broken down into three classes primarily dictated by the types of explosive or ignitable substances: 

  • Class I: Environments with flammable vapors and gases may be present, such as acetylene, hydrogen, ethylene, propane, and methane
  • Class II: Environments with combustible dust may be present, such as metal, coal, or grain dust
  • Class III: Environments with combustible fibers, such as textile particulates

The other factor to consider is the presence or the likelihood of a specific hazardous material combusting. These are typically looked at as divisions:

  • Division 1: Implies regular presence or usage of ignitable substances under normal operational conditions or where frequent failure or maintenance may occur.
  • Division 2: Implies the use of ignitable substances in operations but handled in closed containers or closed systems which may only present a risk under the failure of the containment systems.

Whatever standards your business complies with, whether within the U.S. or globally, it’s essential to know that many products today offer one or multiple industry standard certifications associated with hazardous locations. These intrinsically safe devices are engineered with explosion protections down to the electrical components, wiring, and casings, to eliminate the typical risks associated with commercial electronics. Upgrading to intrinsically safe devices is also a great way to enable an evolving organization looking to digitize its operations and workforce.

We Can Do That Too

If your business is in an industry that has combustible substances, or your industry is regulated by specific safety measures for hazardous environments, know that Connection offers a wide range of intrinsically safe products—from tablets, computers, digital cameras, sensors, networking, and even accessories—to help your business keep manufacturing operational and safe.

Engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

TechSperience Solutions Episode 106:... Jul 07, 2022 Connection

Navigating the ever-growing complexities of today’s IT global chain supply issues is a challenging undertaking for any organization. In this episode, we’ll dive into how GlobalServe, part of the Connection family, is helping customers to tackle these challenges. 

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Peter Waters, Senior Director of GlobalServe, Connection

Jessica Cerone, Director of Supply Chain at GlobalServe, Connection

Show Notes:

[1:11] Introduction of guests

[1:30] What’s one of the biggest issues customers are struggling with today?

[2:06] What is the solution to those issues?

[3:33] How can customers start to be more flexible with OEM standardization?

[5:25] Are people more flexible today than 2 years ago?

[6:24] Are we seeing more examples of customers mixing in different providers?

[8:06] What does the landscape look like from a global perspective where certain regions can acquire certain products?

[10:10] How can companies plan so far out when they were accustomed to an on-demand world?

[12:45] Is there any possibility of going back to where we were prior to Covid, or have things fundamentally changed?

[14:15] What are we seeing with pricing challenges?

[15:25] Are customers willing to pay more now, or are they still expecting bargains?

[16:42] How are we helping teams navigate shipping costs?

[18:41] How can you get creative with helping customers with these new challenges?

[24:58] How have GlobalServe’s connections established throughout the years helped them to navigate the challenges of Covid?

[30:35] What are some examples of customer success stories?

[36:22] How is the experience of working in so many countries?

[41:05] Contact information

The Benefits of Waterproof and Sanitizable... Jul 05, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Some manufacturing industries require more capabilities than the typical end-user device can offer when it comes to modern manufacturing processes. This couldn’t be truer than in the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. While many industries require end-user products that meet specific durability, reliability, and useability requirements, these industries go even further with particular prerequisites that comply with safety, health, and regulatory requirements.

Devices for the Pharmaceutical Industry

In biopharmaceuticals, manufacturers are faced with similar challenges as they digitize operations and comply with standards such as the current good manufacturing practices (cGMP). In these cases, the sanitization agents required in the research and manufacturing processes vary depending on what is being handled but generally require an aseptic and sterile process. For example, cleaning spores, viruses, bacteria, or fungi might require sporicidal disinfectants. In any sterilization procedure, careful consideration is placed into the types of devices purchased, how easy those devices are to clean, and how the devices will hold up to repeated sanitization with damaging chemicals that can quickly destroy traditional end-user devices.

Devices for the Food and Beverage Industry

In food and beverage, manufacturers are deploying new enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution system (MES) platforms to more efficiently address food traceability and safety requirements associated with the US Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) or Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF) standards. Many of these organizations are replacing manual or paper-based processes with new electronic methods or possibly deploying end-user digital solutions into factories for the first time. Depending on the type of food and beverage manufacturer, you may have requirements to wash down your facilities, manufacturing line, and associated equipment. Traditional devices are not designed for liquids, high pressure, and sanitization chemicals necessary to ensure the facilities are safe and meet food quality standards.

Evolving Employee Needs and Expectations

Meeting compliance and safety requirements is always essential. Still, another consideration has been brewing for years: delivering an outstanding employee experience that aids in process and job productivity, while also acting as a tool in workforce acquisition and retainment. Next-generation and top talent want to leverage the best processes and toolsets available. Hiring an outstanding worker only to outfit them with paper, outdated methods, and lackluster technology is increasingly considered unacceptable in a competitive market.

In addition to the “latest and greatest,” this may also imply tailoring the end-user device experience to the job role and its everyday duties. For example, providing a traditional fixed computer to a maintenance or process engineer whose sole purpose is to travel the facility to identify and solve problems may not be ideal. Instead, consider a range of devices that meet the employee in the way they work best regarding their job duties, culture, mobility, and personal expectations.

Job Roles We Should Consider Optimizing

Don’t forget about the many support roles necessary for keeping facilities operational and optimized. In addition to the traditional operator role, consider how we make higher paid roles more efficient every day by using technologies designed to comply and perform in these same environments.

  • Management, Supervisory, and Process Engineers
  • Maintenance and Controls Engineers
  • Environmental Safety and Health Managers
  • Quality and Continuous Improvement

Headless Devices Matter Too

It’s also essential to take into consideration headless devices in these spaces. With a rise in smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, and increasing objectives to connect, integrate, and orchestrate data across operations, manufacturers in these industries require a different breed of edge compute devices that withstand environmental conditions.

Survive and Thrive: Devices to Meet Manufacturing Compliance

Fortunately, manufacturers no longer need to decide between end-user experience and compliance. Today’s devices come in a wide range of form factors from traditional fixed terminals, touchscreens, input devices like smart scanners, edge compute devices, and tablets designed to comply with the harsh rigors of these environments, adhere to or exceed compliance, and tailor the experience to the specific job role.

These devices also support a wide range of operating conditions, sanitization procedures, harsh environments and are waterproof to meet even the most stringent sterilization scenarios associated with food, beverage, and pharmaceutical. If your business is looking for next-generation devices that also meet industry compliance for safety and sanitization, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

VMware Cloud Foundation—It’s Not Just a... Jun 30, 2022 Heather Eakin

What is VMware Cloud Foundation? It’s more than just an innovative way to bundle licensing together: it’s also a product that helps you manage the compatible versions of several different functional elements that you would otherwise have to manage separately.

Version control is hard enough as it is with just a couple of differing solutions. In a VMware environment that is only running ESXi and vCenter, you might run into problems by upgrading a host before you upgrade the vCenter. Oops—now the vCenter can’t manage that host. This is just one example where it is simple enough to gather all the necessary compatibility information and determine the order of operations for upgrade, potentially avoiding the above situation. Now imagine you are also running vSAN, NSX, and vRealize Operations (vROPS) in this same environment. You will have to validate that all components work with each other before every upgrade. 

The Complexity of the Upgrade Timeline

Traditionally, VMware starts product update releases focusing on vSphere and ESXi first, and then rolls out updates to other products in a staggered timeline. Based on this, it would be entirely possible that applying a new release of vCenter/ESXi would be compatible with vSAN and vROPS, but not yet with NSX. There is always a chance that performing a rolling upgrade of your environment without checking compatibility could break the cross-product compatibility and cause reduced functionality—or worse, a network wide outage. Not to mention that vendor support will have you roll back any unsupported updates before any troubleshooting could happen.

Imagine that you use more stand-alone products. The interoperability will become increasingly more complex with each addition. vRealize Automation, Log Insight, Site Recovery Manager (SRM), and Workspace ONE are all examples of multiple software deployments that must be compared to each other to ensure continued, correct operation. With all these different products, it quickly stops being simple to ensure that you are moving to a compatible version. 

The examples described are just applicable to single data center environments. If you are using SRM or vSphere replication as part of your Disaster Recovery plan to a separate location, you also need to make sure you don’t upgrade the primary data center beyond what the DR site will be capable of receiving.

VMware Cloud Foundation Components

Luckily, VMware is on top of this problem. The first piece of the answer is Lifecycle Manager. This product is part of the vRealize Suite, which helps you support the deployment, upgrade, and patching phases of all other vRealize solutions, including Log Insight, Automation, and Operations Manager. If you have nothing currently handling these functions, this would be a good standalone option to consider. However, if you are like many other companies, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. This is where the second piece of the puzzle comes in—VMware Cloud Foundation licensing (VCF).

VCF is a bundled suite that, depending on the licensing model you choose, includes the following components:

  • SDDC Manager
  • vSphere (with Tanzu)
  • vCenter
  • vSAN
  • vRealize Suite, which is Log Insight, vRealize Operations, vRealize Automation, vRealize Lifecycle Manager
  • NSX-T
  • Workspace ONE Access

SDDC Manager will automate the installation, configuration, upgrades, and patching of vSphere, vSAN, NSX, and the vRealize suite components, using Lifecycle Manager. There is automatic, constant communication between the SDDC Manager and the Lifecycle Manager, so VCF is aware of which vRealize components are installed—eliminating any chance of attempting to deploy conflicting software releases. Critically, SDDC Manager will not let you upgrade any component to an unsupported version; it will instead notify you when compatible patches or upgrades are available, and then let you schedule them.

No solution is perfect, but both solutions described will go a long way to easing the initial configuration and the ongoing updating and patching of your VMware environment.  To learn more about either of these solutions to maintaining your VMware environment, contact us today.

Four Keys to Delivering Hybrid and Remote... Jun 28, 2022 Connection

Today’s work-from-anywhere paradigm brings key challenges that organizations must address through IT transformation. Employees in a hybrid workforce need consistent performance with the ability to effectively multitask from anywhere in the world, connected through various networks. This means devices need adequate processing power for faster application performance, even when running complex workloads like video calls.

Additionally, mobile employees need device stability with consistent connectivity, including wireless connections for collaborative projects with security beyond the network firewall. Technology needs to work in an integrated way, including security assurances and expandability options with various devices. Further, IT teams are faced with managing all those devices remotely—from updates to patches and troubleshooting.

In meeting these challenges, organizational digital maturity and IT readiness determine technological capabilities, performance, and ultimately, productivity. Digital maturity marks how prepared an organization is to understand and flexibly adapt to dynamic customer and employee technology needs and demands because of marketplace shifts.

Organizational IT Readiness

Elements of IT readiness include an honest assessment of existing architecture and systems capabilities for things like device portability, data management, and compute power. It means employee software is fully enabled for collaboration, appropriate access, and security. And the IT team has the capability to handle remote workforce management with device updates, patches, and troubleshooting. This type of readiness accelerates identifying, and proactively preventing, potential issues that can cause problems.

By not handling digital maturity gaps in infrastructure or hybrid work challenges, organizations face risks that could jeopardize bottom-line results. For example, reduced employee productivity because of limited compute or inconsistent connectivity will likely yield leaner revenues. When employees are dissatisfied or feel unsupported in their technology, talent retention becomes a challenge. And when security is inadequate, the result is an exposed surface and greater vulnerability to a potential cyberattack.

Four Critical Success Factors for Hybrid Digital Workers

Organizations need to support work-from-anywhere employees with four key capabilities, including:

  1. Ubiquitous compute to handle complex workloads, employee multitasking, and working with any device from any location using wireless communication and networking technologies.
  2. Pervasive connectivity to ensure employee devices communicate with multiple systems wirelessly in a synchronized way for consistent access to information.
  3. Cloud technologies for edge compute, meaning data processed closer to its source to preserve data security, faster performance, and new feature deployment.
  4. Artificial intelligence (AI) to facilitate and help support compute, connectivity, and cloud technologies for employees and remote IT management to automate routine tasks like daily backups, software optimizations, and permissions management for security.

IT Transformation with Intel and Microsoft

Intel and Microsoft have teamed up to deliver technology solutions that address each of these critical success factors and support IT transformation initiatives.

Employees and the IT team can get more done, more simply and more securely, with better compute power and connectivity—regardless of workspace location—by using Windows 11 Pro devices on the Intel vPro® platform powered by 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors.

Windows 11 Pro for business is built for hybrid work, with optimized productivity enhancements and a more intuitive experience for ubiquitous compute. The Intel vPro platform delivers built-in multilayer security and remote manageability, along with several other vital capabilities, including:

  • Intel® Hardware Shield: Provides three groups of security technologies out of the box.
  • Intel® Control-Flow Enforcement Technology (Intel® CET): Helps defend against common malware that modifies an application’s normal flow so that an attacker’s malicious code is executed instead.
  • Intel® Threat Detection Technology (Intel® TDT): Provides cyberattack monitoring and increased security performance at the hardware level.
  • Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT): Provides remote access to devices for diagnostic and management functions, even if they are powered down or the operating system is nonfunctional.
  • Intel® Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel® EMA): Supports process automation and managing devices remotely beyond the firewall and into the cloud.

Additionally, Intel® Edge-Centric FPGAs and Microsoft Azure IoT ensure performant cloud technologies at the edge. Microsoft Azure IoT is an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that allows enabled devices to communicate with one or more back-end services hosted in the cloud. Intel Edge-Centric FPGAs are built for small form factors, low power, and cost-sensitive deployments at the edge and beyond. This is a powerful combination for secure edge-to-cloud computing.

Meet Intel’s Latest Platform—12th Gen Intel Core Processors

Intel’s newest 12th Gen Intel Core processor features a new hybrid architecture that dynamically adjusts how it processes workloads based on usage. In other words, it works smarter vs. harder, yielding faster performance, accelerated AI with hardware enhancements, and exceptional visual graphics density for video on laptops, mobile, and PC devices.

The 12th Gen Intel® Core™ vPro® platform also supports Wi-Fi 6E with the Intel® Connectivity Performance Suite (Intel® CPS), which continuously optimizes Wi-Fi performance for remote worker collaboration. Intel CPS is leading-edge technology that is part of the Intel vPro and Intel® Evo™ platforms. Essentially, Intel CPS prioritizes voice and video packets and picks the best wireless access point for better performance.

Altogether, the 12th Gen Intel Core processor in combination with Intel vPro works as a stable, comprehensive platform that delivers fast performance, visual quality, built-in security, and remote management for today’s hybrid workforce.

The reality today is that digital employee performance depends on built-in security, accelerated compute capabilities, and automated data processing to be able to work from anywhere. The hallmark of success for today’s wherever workspace means employees use the technology that optimizes their productivity from any location, no matter the workload requirement. A future-forward, edge-to-cloud-enabled IT infrastructure, streamlined for efficient operations, leads to a digitally ready organization for increased employee satisfaction and staff retention, as well as positive bottom-line organizational benefits.

Be sure to check out all of Connection’s Intel-powered technologies, so you can be assured of the right solution for your business needs.


Intel® technologies may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.

No product or component can be absolutely secure.

Your costs and results may vary.

© Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

What OSHA’s New HEATNEP Mandate Means for You Jun 23, 2022 Ryan Spurr

New Programs to Improve Safety

In April 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released directive CPL 03-00-024, a National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on enhancing and expanding inspections related to outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards. This directive aims to minimize health-related risks to workers—especially those that lead to injuries, hospitalizations, and fatalities.

To put these risks into perspective, environmental heat cases result in 35 fatalities per year and 2700 heat-related incidents causing multiple days away from work. Despite most manufacturing organizations valuing a strong safety culture, heat-related injuries and illnesses continue to impact employees’ wellbeing, workforce productivity, and insurance premiums with costly federal, state, and local violations. Whether your company is an OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) participant, looking to proactively comply, or responding to an abatement plan—there are various reasons to leverage people, processes, and technology to improve safety in the workplace.

Inaction Results in Scrutiny and Violations

OSHA provides violation guidance to all regional, state, and local agencies. These fees can range from $14,502 per violation, $14,502 per day for failure to abate original violations, and up to $145k for willful or repeated violations! Despite the potential for fines, it’s also important to consider the impact of OSHA disruptions to your workplace.

For example, if your business is selected for a planned or unplanned inspection, this will create additional costs for your organization to support on-site efforts, and could potentially lead to violations or abatement actions. And be aware that if an employee submits a complaint, an inspection is even more likely and another smart reason to ensure a safe environment.

Path to Compliance

There are many elements to CPL 03-00-024 compliance, including monitoring, training, awareness, assessing contributing risk factors, and providing appropriate environmental conditions when heat levels rise. While technology cannot support all of these, it’s a great tool to enable workers, safety officers, and management to quickly determine when external or internal temperatures and humidity reach prescribed risk levels.

Modern temperature and humidity sensors have never been easier to acquire, deploy, and integrate into your company’s environment, safety, and health programs. Today’s solutions come complete with sensors that can be installed in minutes and offer simple provisioning, integration with monitoring dashboards, and features like control limits, event triggers, alerting, and incorporation with other communication platforms. Sensors can be used to abate additional OSHA requirements or aid in smart manufacturing initiatives, making them a great value to larger corporate objectives.

Another aspect of compliance includes an employee’s ability to alert management to potential heat illness symptoms, request additional cooling measures, or quickly contact emergency personnel to assist with a specific health incident. Smart buttons are a low-cost technology solution that can be placed throughout your facility or in high-risk areas. These buttons empower employees to quickly alert management or safety officers of a potential situation, and proactively prevent a potential incident that might otherwise result in worker injury or trigger further inspections.

Digital signage and alerting platforms can also be used to communicate with staff, regardless of location or access to technology. On the frontline, digital signage can be a powerful training and alerting tool to educate employees on new OSHA or corporate safety initiatives. In the event of an actual safety incident, data from sensors can be integrated to tailor communications, improve the response, and prevent injury. By adjusting digital signage, alerts, and other messaging, your organization can immediately communicate with employees and provide specific guidance to avoid harm.

Connection Can Help

Manufacturers face numerous challenges everyday. Ensuring OSHA compliance is just another task leaders must incorporate into daily decision-making as they aim to keep workers safe and productive.

If your business has experienced a recent inspection, received a HEATNEP OSHA letter, or is part of a voluntary compliance program, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about how we can assist with technologies that can complement a specific abatement action plan or your broader safety programs.

Deliver An Enhanced Workplace Mobility... Jun 21, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Today, it’s not enough to simply purchase mobile devices. Organizations need to fully consider how these devices will connect; how their workload will be prioritized compared to other resources; and how to deliver an excellent experience for employees executing the critical work your business depends upon. Is your IT department ready for today’s modern workforce productivity solutions in manufacturing?

Delivering a great experience is more essential and more complicated than ever. Was it the network, device, security, application, SaaS, or patching that caused an issue? Or was there something else in the environment—like signal interference—that might have contributed to the problem? Whatever the case, your IT staff have a challenging role trying to identify a root cause easily and quickly—never mind implementing a solution and improving the reliability and experience for end-user devices.

The good news is that networking manufacturers are partnering with device manufacturers to jointly address many of the challenges facing both end users and IT professionals. Those improvements aim to simplify the task of troubleshooting proactively and reactively, while also improving the general end-user experience.

How Partnerships Impact Workplace Mobility Experience

Seamless Roaming: Unless your facility is 10,000 square feet, consider the different job roles and how employees will use mobile devices in factories, warehouses, and the entire facility. Some use cases are stationary, meaning they will connect to a single wireless source and rarely deviate. However, suppose you have supervisory and engineering roles, line side material stockers, facilities, or other roles that require employees to travel to different ends of the facility. In this case, chances are they will hop from one access point to another. While not all mobile applications require a durable connection, some will impact the experience, productivity, or quality of the end-user experience.

For this reason, manufacturers should understand the roaming lag that occurs when devices transition between traditional access points. If you’re experiencing these sorts of challenges or upgrading to next-generation wireless, you’ll need to understand the features that simplify device handoff from access point to access point—also known as adaptive 802.11r. These features allow devices to roam between access points without requiring full authentication, reducing lag, or minimizing impact to the mobile experience.

Another option for high-demand use cases is private cellular. This can provide coverage across a facility and ensure corporate ownership of traffic and security, while enabling you to segment traditional Wi-Fi use cases to those that demand a seamless experience.

Carrier to Wi-Fi Handoffs: This topic was covered in more detail in one of my recent blogs, but it’s relevant to the role of corporate networking and mobile device experience. Delivering a great device experience over the corporate network is essential, but so is considering how employees transition from 4G/5G carrier services outdoors into your facilities. Today’s networks can integrate with carriers and provide seamless transitions from cellular to corporate Wi-Fi.

Quality of Service: A wide range of mobility devices offers the ability to deliver voice, video, and high-quality streaming content to end users. These use cases might include workers communicating with their team or supervisors, or troubleshooting problems with remote experts. Whatever the situation, these use cases compete with other network traffic and congest RF environments. Identifying the types of devices and communications—and prioritizing that traffic higher—will ensure that communication critical to people and processes gets the necessary attention it needs. This can be accomplished with the network, but many end-user device makers have already worked with network makers to simplify these tasks and deliver the best experience.

Evolving Tools to Proactively and Reactively Solve Issues
Delivering a great experience to employees is always the goal, but it isn’t always easy for IT teams to determine the root cause and mitigate problems with complex tech stacks. It’s typically a drawn-out process that requires many tests and resources—further delaying resolution and frustrating employees. Partnerships are also aiming their sights on helping technical staff by arming them with new tools to help better manage the overall experience.

Heatmapping and Intelligence: Leverage your network and mobility to provide information about facility utilization, occupancy, behaviors, and other insights. Organizations can quickly utilize tools like heatmaps to identify common issues, including end-user proximity to access points, weak coverage compared to mobile demand in a specific area, and even track a mix of personal and corporate devices flowing in the environment to make future adjustments or investments. Be sure to explore these new toolsets to aid in the everyday role of optimizing user experience.

Security: Another experience factor is ease of use. Nothing frustrates employees more than when their devices cannot connect to the network. While this may be a mere nuisance for most, it could be significant if the team is trying to connect a new machine, IoT sensors, or another wireless production device in a factory or warehouse. With zero trust and device profiling, organizations can make it easier to identify specific kinds of devices.

For example, the warehouse depends on a range of bar code scanners and RFID readers. Teams often hold backup devices that have never been connected or remain off the network for extended periods, until they need to replace a broken unit. With profiling, IT can quickly identify an approved device—let’s say a Zebra or Honeywell bar code scanner—quickly provision and connect the device, and allow impacted employees to get back to work.

This also helps IT and security ensure a zero-trust profile, while quickly authorizing approved devices, delivering a more productive work experience, and simplifying low-value network tasks that can distract an already stressed IT staff.

Troubleshooting: The most helpful evolution is application-level visibility, integrated packet inspection, and location context. Bringing disparate troubleshooting tasks into a single management pane allows IT to quickly identify contributing factors, speeding the team to root cause and corrective action. And that’s good for business!

Think about how many times IT teams fought over which department was the culprit. It’s security. It’s applications. It’s the network. It’s a policy change. Business leaders and employees don’t have patience, nor care who is at fault—they want the problem to be rectified and get back to work. Tools that streamline the troubleshooting process are invaluable, quickly align and aim teams to execute mitigation actions, and ultimately improve how IT delivers reliable and responsive services to the business.

Looking to Improve Your Mobility Experience?

With the explosion of a wide range of modern end-user devices driving next-generation productivity, ensure that your manufacturing departments are delivered a great experience and achieve outstanding performance by optimizing their processes. This starts with the right mix of technologies and partnerships. If your business is experiencing issues or exploring ways to improve workplace experience, productivity, and troubleshooting, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

TechSperience Trends Episode 4: Managing a... Jun 17, 2022 Connection

Many companies are now operating in a multicloud environment. In this episode, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of cloud environment, the pros and cons of operating in one, and the best ways to manage it.

Host: James Hilliard

Guest: Duncan Epping, Chief Technologist at VMware

Show Notes:

[0:28] Introduction of guest

[0:41] Are there geocultural differences between the way that North American-based companies approach technologies like the cloud compared to other regions?

[3:33] Are companies in Europe more conservative and risk-averse in their approach to new technologies?

[5:36] How do you define a multicloud environment?

[8:02] Compare multicloud to hybrid cloud.

[9:52] Why should someone move to a multicloud environment?

[12:10] When would a multicloud approach be the right move?

[14:48] Is the complexity of multicloud environments, combined with the cloud skills gap, a disadvantage?

[17:51] Have you seen organizations get back time back for their IT teams because of multicloud environments?

[21:17] What are some questions that a team needs to think about to make sure that they’re managing multicloud environments most effectively?[

25:27] What would you advise teams to be thinking about with security in a multicloud environment?

Inside Look: Connection Sales Department Jun 17, 2022 Connection

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.

Could you see yourself working in our Sales department? Click below to browse some of our current open positions or contact one of our hiring managers directly.

Hiring Manager: Jonathon Dobbs

Account Manager, SLED – Dakota Dunes, SD

Hiring Manager: Michael Marshall

Business Development Manager – Boca Raton, FL

Hiring Manager: Nicholas Souris

Inside Sales Support Rep – Merrimack, NH

Hiring Manager: Jeanne Fuchs

Inside Account Manager, Federal Sales – Rockville, MD

Why Should You Partner with an Azure Expert MSP? Jun 15, 2022 Ken Mason

Running your business in the cloud enables innovation and speed to market at the scale that works for you. Cloud computing with a hyperscale provider like Microsoft Azure offers organizations of all sizes a platform that is highly elastic and agile, while reducing or eliminating the need for traditional large IT infrastructure capital investments to support business workloads. To maximize your investment in Azure, your cloud resources need to be continually optimized for performance, consumption, and cost. Your Azure environment must also be kept secure by proactively implementing measures that will safeguard data and infrastructure, coupled with 24x7 expert management to thwart any threats. A certified Azure Expert Managed Services Provider is best positioned to help you get the most value out of your Azure investment while protecting your environment. 

Trust a Dependable, Experienced Team

Azure Expert Managed Services Providers, like Connection, have the proven capabilities to help customers across the entire cloud lifecycle spectrum, from planning and designing, to building and migrating, culminating in managing and optimizing. They are highly technical organizations with expertise in Azure consulting, architecting, and managed services. Azure Expert MSPs help customers achieve business outcomes by focusing on the application/solution down, not from the infrastructure up. To become a distinguished Azure Expert MSP, an organization must pass a rigorous independent third-party audit every year. You can be sure that when you partner with a certified Azure Expert MSP, you’re getting the expertise you require based on your unique needs.

Your Partner in All Things Cloud

At Connection, we can help you in every step of your cloud journey. We offer flexible plans that expand as you grow. Our Azure managed service plans provide you comprehensive IaaS and PaaS management, DevOps support, workload optimization, proactive health, compliance and security monitoring, incident escalation and remediation, patching, configuration management, and migration—all backed up by our 24x7 help desk staffed by a team of certified Azure experts. We can augment your organization as your IT department’s IT department so you can spend more time on your business. Let us know how we may help you with our certified expertise as an Azure Expert Managed Services Provider.

vSphere 6.5 and 6.7 End of Support Is Fast... Jun 14, 2022 Heather Eakin

It’s hard to believe that vSphere and vSAN 6.5 and 6.7 are already nearing their end of support dates. Wait, didn’t we just upgrade to them? It certainly seems that way. Unfortunately, the deadline is looming. Both 6.5 and 6.7 are headed to End of Support status on October 15, 2022. Then End of Technical Guidance for 6.5 and 6.7 is November 15, 2023.

What Do End of Support and End of Technical Guidance Mean to Me?

It can be pretty confusing to understand what exactly happens on October 15. How is End of Support different than End of Technical Guidance?

First off, End of Support, often known as End of Life, means that there will be no more patches released for 6.5 or 6.7, including bug and security patches. You can expect that harmful actors will focus on exploiting new vulnerabilities that can no longer be patched on or after the deadline. It can be a significant business risk to run on an unsupported platform.

You will also no longer have access to VMware vSphere support via phone, but you will be able to log web-based help tickets. The results of these tickets will often be to reference you to knowledge base (KB) articles about known issues and their remediation steps. This support will typically be best effort, meaning your problem may or may not reach resolution. The web-based support is what is known as technical guidance. That will only last until November 15, 2023.

Start Planning Your vSphere 6.5 Upgrade Now

We highly recommend that you start planning your upgrade now while you still have support. Here are some key steps that you will want to consider.

1. Determine what is in scope for the upgrade. Consider all the VMware products you are using and how an upgrade of vSphere will affect compatibility with other software products. You may find if you are using another product that this product needs to be upgraded too (either before or after the vSphere upgrade happens). After all, each version is only compatible with specific versions of other VMware software. The more products you use, the more of a challenge it will be to determine which version you should run. 

Check the VMware Hardware Compatibility List to see if your hardware is listed for your target version. If it isn’t listed, you might need to replace your storage or server infrastructure as well. If your hardware isn’t supported and you run into trouble, you will receive limited help from VMware vSphere support.

2. Plan to upgrade your vCenter before you update your hosts. vCenter cannot manage a host that runs a higher level of ESXi. For this reason, it must be upgraded before you upgrade your hosts.

3. Upgrade your hosts. If you have adequate resources, you can evacuate the host and perform the upgrade without disruption during normal business hours. You would simply move workloads back to the hardware when you are done with the upgrade. If you do not have adequate resources to run the VMs or do not have the ability to evacuate a host, you will need to schedule maintenance windows for this work. 

4. Finish the update by updating the VMTools and Hardware version on the virtual machines. Depending which version of VMTools and Hardware you have running, you may need to reboot the VM. We find that some people get stuck at this step. After all, rebooting a server usually requires a maintenance window and sometimes end user validation that the virtual machine or application is functioning correctly. However, it is important to complete this step. 

VMTools allows for better management of the virtual machine and helps the ESXi host operating system communicate with the VM operating system. It also provides some useful functionality for rebooting, video resolution, mouse movement, sound, and synchronization of time.

The Virtual Hardware version may need some consideration, as each version gives additional capabilities to the virtual machine, but also only functions with a certain VMware software level. For example, if you have two data centers, one running ESXi 7.0 U2 (7.0.2) and another running ESXi 7.0 (7.0.0), and you want to make sure that the virtual machines can run at either data center, you will need to choose a hardware version that is supported on both software levels. For example, you would not choose Virtual Hardware version 19, as it is only supported with ESXi 7.0 U2 (7.0.2) and not ESXi 7.0 (7.0.0). 

We Can Help

This can be a pretty complex process, and you might not have the time to develop and execute a comprehensive plan that will allow you to upgrade painlessly and with the minimal amount of down time. If you need help, Connection has a technical team who can assist you with planning and performing your vSphere and vSAN upgrade. Contact an Account Manager to get started.

Microsoft Office 2013 to End Support in... Jun 09, 2022 Makayla Mota

As of April 11, 2023, security updates and support for Microsoft Office 2013 will no longer be available, potentially increasing your organization’s exposure to security risks or affecting compliance obligations. If you are connecting to Microsoft 365 via an Office 2013 client, you may also experience performance or reliability issues.

What Does the End of Support Actually Mean?

Almost all Microsoft products have a support lifecycle, also known as the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy, that lasts a fixed number of years from its initial release. During this lifecycle, they provide bug and security fixes. At the end of this lifecycle, the product reaches what is known as the end of support, and Microsoft no longer provides the following:

  • Technical support for issues
  • Bug fixes for issues that are discovered
  • Security fixes for vulnerabilities that are discovered

What Should Be Your Next Move?

For starters, reach out to your Connection Account Manager to begin looking at your upgrade options:

  • Microsoft 365 Apps: The subscription version of Office that comes with many Microsoft 365 enterprise and business plans.
  • Office LTSC 2021: Sold as a one-time purchase, through a volume license agreement and available for one computer per license. OR Office 2021: Available through traditional volume licensing programs with Software Assurance. 

What’s the Difference Between These Options?

The key difference between the two is that Microsoft 365 Apps are regularly updated, sometimes as often as monthly, with new features, whereas Office LTSC 2021 remains static with the features from its initial release date in September 2021.

Microsoft 365 subscription plans include access to Office applications and OneDrive. When bundled in a suite, other cloud services including Teams, Exchange Online, and OneDrive for Business are available to your organization. Microsoft 365 Apps is the version of Office that comes with many Microsoft 365 enterprise and business subscription plans. It includes the full versions of Office apps in a user-based licensing model, meaning users can install Office on multiple devices with their license. This gives users access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Teams whether they are using a Windows 11 device, an Apple device, and/or a mobile device. 

Office LTSC 2021 is available to organizations through a volume licensing agreement for enterprise admins to deploy to users in their organization. It is supported on devices running Windows 10 or Windows 11. The following Office products offered through volume licensing are available on devices running Windows:

  • Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021
  • Office LTSC Standard 2021
  • Project Professional 2021
  • Project Standard 2021
  • Visio LTSC Professional 2021
  • Visio LTSC Standard 2021

These products use Click-to-Run rather than Windows Installer as the installation technology, but you would still use Key Management Service to activate. Office LTSC has 5 years of Mainstream Support and does not offer Extended Support.

It is also important to note that Office LTSC is separate from the Office that is available through Microsoft 365 plans. Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise (formerly Office 365 ProPlus) already has all the features included in Office LTSC 2021, along with many additional features. If you have already deployed Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise, you would not need Office LTSC 2021.

For more information, or if you need assistance in planning for this transition, contact an Account Manager today.

TechSperience Solutions Episode 105:... Jun 08, 2022 Connection

When COVID-19 hit, school IT teams found themselves needing to reevaluate the tools they were using. Modern solutions from Microsoft, including Autopilot and Intune, can bring an array of benefits to the education space. In this episode, we'll explore how the education field can utilize these technologies in schools to benefit teachers, administrators, and students.

Host: James Hilliard

Guests: Lisa Trisciani, VP of State, Local and Education Field Sales at Connection

Rick Sabarese, Director of End-User Computing and Mobility at Connection

Show Notes:

[0:35] Introduction of guests

[1:00] What were the biggest things that IT teams have learned over the last couple of years?

[2:42] What was Microsoft Autopilot doing in other areas like the business world that the education space realized they could also benefit from?

[3:44] How have platforms like Microsoft Autopilot helped make it easier to get technology devices up and running for students?

[5:38] Why are education customers looking at Microsoft Autopilot today?

[7:51] Can a technology device be kept with an individual student and stay with them for their entire time in school?

[9:25] How can Microsoft Autopilot alleviate technology responsibilities from teachers so that they can focus more on teaching?

[12:45] What benefits does Microsoft Autopilot provide to parents of students?

[15:06] What is some of the early feedback from school districts that have adopted Microsoft Autopilot?

[18:32] How does our team work with a school district to set up Autopilot so these machines can hit the ground running as soon as they hit a student's hands?

[20:20] In a hybrid environment, can Autopilot be utilized to manage Google devices?

[23:00] Are our students more well-versed in technology platforms today?

[24:44] How are schools funding new technology solutions? What are some of the funding opportunities out there?

[30:20] Contact information

Where 5G and Manufacturing Environments... Jun 07, 2022 Ryan Spurr

With the accelerated use of consumer and corporate mobile devices and the rapid growth of connected sensors, next-generation workforce end points, and industrial products, manufacturers need to reconsider how they leverage modern cellular-based solutions to empower a new range of use cases that improve everyday communication and operations.

The approach can include delivering a better experience for employees and guests, ensuring cellular service signals are accessible in all indoor environments, and building out an alternative network based upon unlicensed spectrums in the form of private cellular to connect an evolving range of devices both indoors and outdoors.

Let’s look at some of the technologies and how they’re being applied inside the manufacturing sector.

Cellular Solutions to Consider for Your Manufacturing Facility

Cellular DAS: Whether driven by new local building regulations to provide robust emergency response communication indoors or to provide strong cellular coverage to all indoor spaces, distributed antenna systems (DAS) can solve both compliance and experience. It’s important to highlight that some parts of the country mandate this technology inside new or retrofitted buildings based on technologies that failed in a prior crisis like 9/11 and other tragic rescue situations where first responders’ communication technologies failed to operate indoors.

This technology leverages outdoor antennas that connect to a carrier tower for service, bi-directional amplifiers, and indoor antennas located across all floors or work spaces to ensure outstanding cellular coverage in all plant areas. This technology will ensure that all your cellular devices have the coverage you expect outside of any compliance requirements and deliver a great end-user experience.

Cellular to Wi-Fi Handoffs: One of the most common frustrations we hear from clients is inadequate cellular coverage inside manufacturing facilities. As employees navigate deeper into the industrial areas of the plant, most end users experience challenges with consistent and reliable cellular service. Another issue is the transition from outdoors into the building; end users may experience call quality degradation, or their call may drop altogether.

Manufacturers can now leverage their existing IT infrastructure, including access points, to deliver a great experience that allows employees to transition direct carrier services to corporate network infrastructure via a seamless handoff that eliminates call drops, avoids poor call quality, and ensures that everyone can continue their calls uninterrupted.

The approach is similar to DAS but leverages existing IT infrastructure instead of an entirely different platform. With a few additional investments, this approach is quickly becoming a standard option in many top network brand portfolios, and it’s something your organization might be able to adopt rapidly.

Private Cellular: Carriers aren’t the only ones who can deploy cellular services. Now private businesses can deploy their own private cellular solutions to leverage the benefits of cellular over a private network your organization controls, owns, and secures. Expect this trend to evolve as we have seen for other standards in the industry, such as the adoption of Wi-Fi, BLE, and ZigBee, among other standards—each with respective benefits and use cases. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) opens up 5G options that leverage previously unavailable spectrum and makes the remaining unlicensed spectrum available for general use by businesses.

Private LTE or cellular options will be an essential component of the smart manufacturing journey as manufacturers look to integrate new types of endpoint technologies inside and outside of their facilities. And like any organization where intellectual property and proprietary processes exist, many manufacturers might want to look toward private cellular options as an alternative to public offerings.

Cellular Backhaul: Slightly out of this blog’s scope but familiar in nature, check out our previous blog about creating more resilient solutions with a wide range of cellular connectivity solutions. Unlike the above use cases, which either extend or make private cellular, cellular backhaul connects remote facilities, critical equipment and machines, and acts as a backup alternative to traditional connectivity like broadband or fiber carrier solutions. 

It’s Time to Invest in Cellular

With many new cellular offerings available, manufacturers are reimagining their use of cellular-based technologies, mobile experience, and how these capabilities integrate with their evolving smart manufacturing initiatives to grow and improve business.

If your business is exploring cellular-based solutions to improve experience or operations, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology, available services, and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

TechSperience Trends Episode 3: The Cloud... Jun 01, 2022 Connection

Cloud computing jobs are in high demand. However, there are not enough people with the right skill sets to fill those roles. In this episode, we’ll explore the factors that led us to this point and how to best address the cloud skills gap moving forward.

Host: James Hilliard

Guest: David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte

Listen Now

Show Notes:

[0:30] Introduction of guest

[0:50] Is it a good idea to encourage prospective employees to explore jobs in tech?

[1:50] Why are we at a point of a cloud skills gap?

[3:51] Is there enough passion for cloud computing now that will fill these roles in 5 years?

[5:33] Are there any concerns with the types of people who might be filling these cloud roles?

[7:59] What are some tips and ideas on how people can re-skill themselves to take advantage of
the cloud skills gap?

[10:51] Is the traditional model of school falling too far behind to keep up with cloud

[13:03] Are you finding organizations that are recognizing and making accommodations for
their employees to go back to school for cloud computing?

[14:45] Are there any differences between enterprises and SMBs in the types of training that
are offered?

[16:26] If you were hiring, what would you be looking for in a potential employee?

[18:36] What are tips for leaders that already have a team in place that want to spark a passion
in the current employees to change roles?

[20:33] Are there any verticals that are more at risk of the cloud skills gap?

[24:03] If you’re looking to advance your own career in the cloud space, what’s the first thing
you should do?

[26:28] What’s something that leaders can do to encourage awareness around the cloud skills
gap and help their employees can position themselves to fill those roles in the future?

[29:23] Once someone gets hired into a cloud computing role, what can they expect?

TechSperience Solutions Episode 104: Who Is... May 26, 2022 Connection

Does your IT team need an IT team? Here are insights into our Managed Services offerings and how they help teams to secure their environments. 

Guest: John Chirillo, Managed Services Director at Connection
Guest: Tony The, Services Businesses Development Manager at Connection

Show Notes:

[0:45] Introduction of guests

[1:35] What are the top security breach challenges that IT teams are facing today?

[4:26] Is stealing credentials still a security issue?

[7:03] Are customers currently more interested in investing in security?

[8:11] What is the foundation and framework of Connection’s Managed Services?

[9:49] Is the mindset of the organization more important than a specific technology?

[11:15] How do customers prioritize their security issues?

[12:36] How would Connection’s Managed Services framework mitigate specific security risks?

[14:29] Where do certain technology toolsets fit in?

[17:07] How can we get teams on their best security footing?

[18:30] Is there still a wide variety of acceptable risk levels?

[22:00] What’s the process for teams to understand and prioritize their security risks?

[24:05] How do you recommend that customers not get too far behind within their security environments?[27:25] What’s some memorable customer feedback you’ve received?

No Signal? No Problem: LoRaWAN Can Reach All... May 24, 2022 Ryan Spurr

I have written many blogs about wireless technologies like WiFi, BLE, ZIGBEE, and RFID—but what about the lesser discussed Long Range Wide Area Network or LoRaWAN? LoRaWAN isn’t new but perhaps only considered suitable for outdoor applications like agriculture or construction, where sensors might be distributed across vast geographies. The truth is that LoRaWAN can be a great technology within manufacturing, as it has some outstanding benefits that other technologies don’t.

So what benefits does LoRaWAN have over its peers? What technologies might we connect with LoRaWAN? And what use cases might we leverage LoRaWAN for in manufacturing?

LoRaWAN in Action

First, as its name suggests, LoRaWAN is a long-range technology. LoRaWAN utilizes narrow bands and has a higher link budget than traditional wireless protocols, including LTE. It’s ideal for delivering small amounts of data over very long ranges. How long? Like any signal, this depends on the antenna and how much interference exists in the environment (trees, buildings, structures). Typically speaking, LoRaWAN ranges up to 10 miles in rural areas and three miles in urban areas. With the ability to reach far, you can imagine how this technology might be helpful inside warehouses, factories, outdoor yards, or other large operational environments. With a typical WiFi or BLE installation, you’re lucky to get up to 5–50 yards, let alone cover an entire facility. Still, with a single LoRaWAN gateway, you can cover an entire facility.

Second, low power consumption is another benefit of technology running atop LoRaWAN. Devices can run up to 10 years on a single charge, meaning this technology is ideal for any situation, as it can run for years with little maintenance and can be reliably leveraged when power is lost or non-existent.

Third, LoRaWAN is a wide area network protocol that supports end-to-end encryption, receives firmware updates over the air, allows for device roaming across gateways, and can support high volumes of devices and messages, making it useful for IoT-based use cases.

How to Acquire a LoRaWAN of Your Own

There are many ways to acquire LoRaWAN-based devices, and the choice of which to leverage depends on the use case you’re trying to solve.

  1. Create Your Own: As LoRaWAN is an open-source protocol and leverages an unlicensed spectrum, you can create your own LoRaWAN gateways and devices or tap into an open-source network of “shared gateways” located all over the world. For example, people are known to create LoRaWAN gateways using a Raspberry Pi and open-source software. This might be a fun learning activity if you’re an engineer, but it’s probably not ideal for commercial purposes.
  2. Public LoRaWAN: A popular option is the use of public LoRaWAN services. While coverage isn’t available everywhere, public LoRaWAN allows companies with use cases that require coverage across large geographic areas to contract with a carrier. This might be an outstanding option if you seek not to procure and maintain your own LoRaWAN hardware or if your use cases require coverage beyond your corporate offices.
  3. Private LoRaWAN: LoRaWAN public services are not available everywhere. If you leverage use cases that optimize corporate plant operations (vs., say, supply chains and logistics), then the purchase of a LoRaWAN gateway from trusted hardware partners is a viable option. It’s easier than ever to acquire LoRaWAN gateway options that plug and play with your existing network brands and provide IT and cybersecurity teams with the maximum control and visibility into this protocol and management of the more extensive network infrastructure. Most LoRaWAN gateway brands utilize open standards, making it easy to acquire a broad range of affordable sensors and connect them to a common LoRaWAN infrastructure. And many of the gateway makers also provide LoRaWAN sensors, software, and even proof of concept packages, allowing you to jumpstart a LoRaWAN project, implement use cases, and obtain quick time to value.

Popular LoRaWAN Use Cases

Equipment Monitoring: Not all facilities or process equipment support modern technologies, communication standards, or can provide status. For example, vibration monitoring of pumps, motors, and fans requires multiple dimension vibration and temperature monitoring to determine the health of the equipment. With LoRaWAN-based vibration sensors, a manufacturer can quickly install, connect to a gateway, and integrate data with business systems like CMMS, MES, ERP, SCADA, or reporting platforms.

Monitoring and Safety: While every manufacturing environment is different, leveraging LoRaWAN-based sensors even where Wi-Fi or other traditional infrastructure doesn’t exist implies manufacturers can install sensors reliably anywhere for collecting data such as temperature, humidity, particulates, liquids, location of sensitive chemicals, or materials, light, and much more.

Sustainable and Efficient Operations: Collecting data about the environment with LoRaWAN-based sensors and integrated data can lead to more innovative facilities. Utilizing occupancy, temperature, humidity, and open/closed sensors, a manufacturer can integrate data with building management systems, intelligent lighting, and other facilities resources to optimize energy consumption and improve employee experiences.

Supply Chain-based Traceability: With the availability of public and private LoRaWAN installations across the globe, this technology lends itself to use cases such as tracking essential products in transit. Think cold chain monitoring of food or vaccines. This level of reach means that a diverse range of sensors can be applied to cargo, vehicles, or other logistical situations where you want to provide traceability data outside of your corporate offices’ walls and gather insights that enable monitoring and improvement of your supply chain operations.

LoRaWAN: An Effective Smart Manufacturing Initiative

LoRaWAN is an excellent alternative to many other popular wireless communication protocols. Its strengths include long-range, lower power, and a diverse list of affordable IoT devices. This makes it an excellent technology for outdoor and indoor plant operations, offering deep coverage where other technologies struggle. Its ecosystem of devices and business-based use cases make it a great consideration for your smart manufacturing initiatives. If your business is looking to explore LoRaWAN or other smart manufacturing technologies, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization. Contact an Account Manager today to get started!

What Can You Do to Help Secure Top IT Talent? May 23, 2022 Patrick Dja Konan

Though the IT job market has always been competitive, it’s no secret that the last several months of 2022 have presented numerous challenges for companies to find, hire, and retain IT professionals. Adding to the challenging market, companies are also dealing with the impact of the Great Resignation, which is estimated to continue throughout the year and will add more challenges for hiring managers and HR teams. As you evaluate your staffing needs for the year, here are three things to consider when looking to hire IT professionals.  

1. Start Early

It’s understandable that budget and project planning can impact how soon you can begin the recruiting process for your IT hiring needs, but be sure to start the process as soon as you can. CompTIA cited the employment in the United States technology sector increased for the 13th consecutive month in December 2021, and job postings for open positions grew from 316,000 to over 332,000 for the month. IT unemployment is at an all-time low, and every organization across the country is looking for IT talent; therefore, starting your recruiting and hiring process early would allow you to find the right talent to hire in a timely manner.  

2. Offer Flexibility

The U.S. job market has drastically changed since the beginning of the pandemic, which forced many employers to create hybrid and even fully remote workplaces. With the increase of virtual jobs and limited pool of talent, IT professionals are reevaluating their priorities and will only pursue opportunities that match both their personal and career goals. Offering some type of remote or hybrid flexibility could potentially help with your search for IT talent.

3. Provide Competitive Pay and Benefits

Per Yahoo , salaries increased by 9.5% on average across major tech hubs for experienced hires, and—with a 357% increase in remote IT jobs—companies basing salaries on location, not market value, may lose out on talent. By offering competitive pay (market value) and benefits tailored to today’s needs, companies can increase their chances of landing top IT talent.

At Connection, we have a dedicated team of experts with over 30 years of staffing experience that can help your organization navigate through these challenges by providing market-based information and IT recruiting solutions to fill your technical openings. Get in touch today!

Cellular and Wireless Backhaul Support... May 19, 2022 Ryan Spurr

In manufacturing, we have long focused on the concept of always-on operations to keep critical processes and production online. More recently, the pandemic reminded us of some other vital principles: mainly resilience, flexibility, and planning for any potential disruption. Add in long lead times for hardware, materials, and workforce shortages, and there are more risks being realized simultaneously than perhaps any other time. With so many challenges in play, infrastructure shouldn’t be an obstacle to meeting customer demand or keeping organizations connected.

So how is your organization providing more redundant connectivity options? With long lead times for services and hardware, how is your organization ensuring future expansions or remote facilities get the connectivity essential to meet the pace of business?

Alternative Connectivity for Manufacturers

Whether your organization is trying to build out a more reliable infrastructure or expanding facilities in support of growth objectives, you need flexible solutions that will allow you to stand up and preserve connectivity in the ever-increasing digitally connected manufacturer.

Networks fail, fiber is expensive, and connectivity services can delay new facility go-live dates. Fiber can cost as much as $26k per mile for aerial and $173k per mile for buried. So what alternatives exist to allow your organization to layer connectivity and redundancy in critical operations? Let’s take a look at a few solutions manufacturers implement to meet these challenges.

  • Device-level Cellular Backhaul: End-point-based cellular backhaul can provide a single device with direct cellular connectivity, either as the primary connection or as a failover. And many of these devices also offer edge-compute options, allowing your organization to deploy containers or edge intelligence to provide for data acquisition, orchestration, and automation, among other things. This technology can provide devices, regardless of location or purpose, with flexible connectivity.
  • Network-level Cellular Backhaul: Similar to device-level, these network-based devices can provide cellular connectivity to a limited number of endpoints, such as a critical manufacturing line with production equipment and PLCs, that may require non-stop operation even when traditional networks fail. Some of these networks also support containers and integrated security capabilities to help keep critical infrastructure safe, online, and resilient.
  • Site-level Cellular Backhaul: This technology comes in different shapes and sizes, and leverages cellular backhaul connecting the site with network switches or wireless access points, providing a modest-sized environment or remote facility with connectivity in lieu of traditional wide area network connectivity. This option can quickly connect remote facilities, equipment, or critical production equipment with dedicated connectivity or act as a backup option in a networking failure.
  • Point-to-point/Multi-point High-speed Wireless: Depending on the brands and products chosen, this technology can provide point-to-point connectivity, point-to-multiple-point connectivity, and speeds ranging from 50 MB/S to 500 MB/S across distances up to 15 miles. Unlike its cellular counterpart that allows connectivity to carrier services, these technologies leverage an unlicensed spectrum, allowing manufacturers to connect facilities or multiple devices at ultra-high wireless speeds without wired or fiber-based solutions or third party carrier services. Other benefits include low latency, fast and accurate handoffs, and rapid deployment at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions.

Fiber Alternative: Not all situations require fiber to be deployed, especially for remote locations or facilities that don’t need much capacity. In some cases, fiber installation and its associated service may take longer to deploy than a facilities plan can support. Leveraging cellular or wireless backhaul solutions may be a solid alternative to quickly connect those early third party and employee resources standing up the new facility or production line.

It might also be a more viable option if a new facility is acquired with a direct line of sight. Or perhaps, that scenario where your business acquires the building across the street but still requires fiber services or installation to be deployed. Leveraging wireless backhaul or point-to-point solutions can provide high speed and rapid connectivity at lower costs.

Campus Networks: Many manufacturers have multiple buildings or buildings close to an existing facility with fiber and carrier services. Leveraging wireless backhaul, your organization can quickly deploy a high-speed point-to-point or point-to-multipoint network connecting various buildings, test sites, or equipment anywhere on campus.

Temporary or Outdoor Structures: This could be an outdoor event where connectivity doesn’t exist, nor is it feasible to deploy. It could be security cameras in parking lots, entrances, and other facility-related situations requiring reliable high-speed networks. Or it could be as simple as providing connectivity to safety towers across the facility’s property, ensuring reliable safety anywhere on the property.

Backup Connectivity: We have all been there—connectivity events that should never have happened but do. Your factory is hard-wired with fiber coming into the building. The facility team is building out a new cooling system or extending the building to accommodate business growth. The construction company responsible accidentally severs the underground fiber coming into the building, and production goes down indefinitely. Connectivity with a regional data center, cloud, or co-location services is now unavailable, and all critical operations dependent upon business systems are impacted.

Your experiences might be different. Perhaps it’s an issue with the local carrier or a wide area network hardware failure without redundancy in place. Whatever the root cause, it sends support staff home and may result in loss of production. But what if the building had cellular backhaul capabilities and could run the most critical connections keeping the plant operational? What if other buildings on the campus still had connectivity and you had wireless backhaul stood up as a backup? In either case, you would have the capacity to operate some or all of your operations without impacting production.

Affordable and Resilient Connectivity Solutions for Manufacturers

Cellular and high-speed wireless backhaul solutions offer an array of options to meet the needs of today’s modern manufacturers. These technologies support many everyday business use cases and allow manufacturers to implement affordable and resilient connectivity solutions to support growth and operational excellence. If your business is looking to explore cellular or high-speed wireless backhaul solutions, or other industrial infrastructure technologies, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

Connection and TechCrunch launch The... May 17, 2022 Connection

We are proud to announce The Connection IT Superhero Awards are back for another year! Held in partnership with TechCrunch, these awards recognize hard-working IT professionals whose heroics have saved the day.

The Connection IT Superhero Awards are open to IT professionals from organizations of all sizes and industries, from startups and enterprises to healthcare, retail, manufacturing, education, government, and other organizations. Winners will be announced at The Connection IT Superhero Awards Show, held during TechCrunch Disrupt on October 20, 2022 in San Francisco, CA.

This year’s awards program benefits three deserving non-profits—Year Up, NPower, and Girls Who Code—selected by Connection employees as part of the company’s Connection Cares initiative. Read the full press release for complete details.

Do you know an IT Superhero? Submit your nomination by August 31, 2022 and let us recognize their dedication and hard work!

Cloud Considerations: Pave the Way to... May 17, 2022 Dan Ortiz

Many businesses are still trying to determine what percentage of their infrastructure—or which specific workloads—should move to the cloud. Per Gartner, the cloud spending forecast for 2023 is $599B—a 37% increase from 2021’s forecast of $410B. During the same period of time, cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is forecast to grow by 52%, followed by cloud software as a service (SaaS) at 31%.*

Creating an on-premises infrastructure requires a thoughtful approach, but it is different in the public cloud. You need to purchase hardware covering server and networking needs for an on-premises environment which—at the most simplistic view—takes time to ship and set up. The public cloud provides agility that cannot be realized in an on-premises environment. You can spin up a new workload within minutes and have it feeding data to your application within an hour (once configured).


The cloud offers speed to market that is revolutionary—and so many more benefits. However, it also creates the need to implement policies controlling spend. There are compliance considerations around data residency and industry regulations as well. And don’t forget about access management and data protection. Plus, you need to assemble and assign the new responsibilities to the staff. Oh, and did you consider how to get the staff trained to pivot their skills to the management of resources in the cloud, or are you going to acquire new talent in this resource constrained market? Do you know what tools you will need to manage your cloud environment and what they cost?

The Bottom Line

Needless to say, there are many things to consider when moving to the cloud. And each decision has its own set of pros and cons—and unnecessary costs if done incorrectly. But you don’t have to do all the thinking, planning, and supervising yourself. Connection has a mature managed services practice with Azure Expert designation. Our team will administer and monitor your environment while uncovering ways to further innovate within your cloud. We can help you achieve your prioritized outcomes at an accelerated pace.

Take a moment to review Connection’s Azure Managed Services. You can use the form at the bottom to contact an expert—or reach out directly to us through your Account Manager. We would be happy to get a better understanding of your goals and build a plan that helps you achieve success.

*Gartner, 2022, Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud End-User Spending to Reach Nearly $500 Billion in 2022

A Connection Customer Success Story with... May 16, 2022 Makayla Mota

Rachel Hatten, Director of Professional Development at the David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching, is a big believer in the “tinkering mentality” when exploring tech tools, particularly when it comes to teaching.

“The more we can get our pre-service teachers engaged in that mentality, the more willing they are to let students take risks and try things out. It is okay to use a tool you are not fully versed in and let the kids teach you! They will explore. They will become the experts.”

The David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching is part of the University of South Florida College of Education and supports the space between the College of Education and practicing teachers and administrators in partner school districts. Their purpose is to support practicing teachers by putting on professional development for teacher recertification and continuing education. Though their outreach is community-based and primarily focused on practicing teachers, Rachel was excited when Nicole Caldwell, a Professional Learning Consultant and MIE Expert at Connection, reached out with a desire to set up Microsoft trainings with pre-service teachers during the pandemic.

“This stemmed from remembering what I felt as a first-year teacher, feeling like I was drowning and reflecting on how unprepared teachers were when the pandemic hit, and we all got sent home,” Nicole shared. “They didn’t have good preparation to be able to survive virtually at all—and that is not a knock at teachers—all over the world educators were not prepared for this.”

Getting Teachers—and Students—the Tools They Need

After getting in touch with Rachel and Ashley, the Administrative Specialist at Anchin, the three of them began brainstorming about different offerings they could provide for both pre-service teachers and USF professors and decided to run several Microsoft Innovative Educator programs allowing them to become certified MIEs. Their first two sessions were held in the Fall of 2020, one focusing on faculty and one focused on the pre-service teaching students and staff, with the main objective being to open people’s eyes to how much power the Microsoft tools had to offer and to get better implementation across the board within the College of Education.

“The professional development with Nicole and Connection fit this really important need, because we were still in the middle of the pandemic and everyone, including our USF professors, was figuring out teaching online for the very first time. So we have USF professors trying to figure out how to use USF tools, we have USF students trying to figure out how to use USF tools, and some of those USF students are student teaching with K–12 students who are in an online setting for the first time,” Rachel said.

Nicole approached the MIE Academies with an eye toward implementation. Knowing that the pre-service teachers are likely going into school districts that are also Microsoft customers, she knew that by training USF professors on the Microsoft Suite they would then be modeling how to best use the tools in class, thereby better preparing the students for their student-teaching practice. It was important to Nicole to centralize her efforts around using the Microsoft platform only, rather than several, in turn creating a full-circle attempt to fully take advantage of teacher modeling.

“Teachers teach the way they were taught,” Rachel said. “So Nicole approached the college from the place of—how can we make implementation and the use of Microsoft tech tools better in the College of Ed so that pre-service teachers see their teachers using these tools, and are modeling for them how to best use these tools, then when these students go into their student-teaching practice experience they are well-versed and prepared to use the tools with the student they are going to serve especially when they are going into schools districts in the Tampa Bay area that are also Microsoft customers.”

This full-circle approach is beneficial for everyone involved. The USF professors are getting trained on what the entire Microsoft Suite has to offer, and by implementing those tools into their day-to-day practice, the pre-service teachers are getting more prepared in their student-teaching roles, taking that aspect of training off the plates of the partner school districts that work with the Anchin Center. Providing this training and the in-class modeling for the pre-service teachers felt like an opportunity where they could give them practical and hands-on tools that they could use immediately within those partner districts, and the partner districts would not have to worry about training them on the Microsoft Suite.

“It felt like a way to bring both of those sides together and say—this is part of what our preparation looks like. We know we’ll send them to you with at least this space covered,” Rachel stated. “It makes hiring USF grads a major selling point to districts. Constantly trying to PD new teachers on new curriculum, new standards, new district ways, even how to take attendance is overwhelming and to have this one thing we could lift off the district’s plate in terms of training new hires on the Microsoft Suite and having pre-service teachers see that through-line from I had this as a student, I practiced this in my student teaching, and now I can implement it as a teacher. That kind of learning, if we could replicate it in other places, is really powerful.”

Opening Up New Possibilities with Training Sessions

The Fall MIE Training Sessions provided by Connection were a huge success that garnered positive feedback from USF professors, staff, and pre-service teachers alike. The attendees were constantly surprised by how much they didn’t know about the Microsoft 365 Suite and consistently wanted to learn more. Where Teams was thought of as a virtual meeting tool only, the attendees learned how Teams could be used to collaborate, learn, and teach in a virtual environment and then carry those practices back into schools as they returned. Microsoft Sway also got a lot of attention from Nicole’s trainees, several of them expressing that they found the tool so useful for asynchronous consumption because they can build content and their students can access it independently.

The positive feedback led to planning for Spring 2021 Connection Introduction and Advanced MIE training sessions that Nicole conducted in innovative ways. She focused a lot on instructional practice and how to use programs and tools like Teams, OneNote Class Notebook, and Reading Progress in both the in-person and virtual classroom and real-life scenarios. She also planned for a lot of free time throughout the training sessions, allowing the attendees to play with the applications spread across a Tic Tac Toe board at the front of the room, again encouraging that “tinkering mentality” that is so important in training a new teacher.

“Go ahead and click—you’re not going to break anything. What’s going to happen?” Rachel said. “Pre-service teachers seeing that modeled by faculty are more likely to do that in their own classrooms. A willingness to explore, back out of something, and try again. Those are skills we want kids to have, we just call them fancy names, like 21st century skills, but really we just want kids to not know how to do something, try it and explore a little bit to learn as they go, and I think that is a major piece of what those workshops did for those folks.”

This is only the beginning of Nicole and Connection’s partnership with the University of Southern Florida and The David C. Anchin Center. The importance of training pre-service teachers is something Nicole kept coming back to throughout various points of her career and she is thrilled to see this partnership flourish, expand and be a source of guidance for pre-service educators in the coming years.

Please see Connection’s Academies and Workshops for Educators for more information about planning a Microsoft training session and encouraging your teachers to tinker.

TechSperience Trends Episode 2: Legacy vs.... May 12, 2022 Connection

Since COVID-19 hit, cloud-native apps have become critical to the daily operations of most companies. At the same time, a lot of people are still using several legacy apps in addition to cloud apps. Looking forward, how should companies successfully migrate their legacy apps to the cloud? How should they decide which ones should move? In this episode, we explore the pros and cons of both legacy and cloud-native apps.

Host: James Hilliard
Guest: Ian Moyse

Listen Now

Show Notes:
[0:39] Introduction of guest

[1:06] Without the cloud, could humanity have survived the last 18–24 months?

[3:30] Were you surprised we didn't see more failures with the cloud in that time period?

[6:00] What do you think smaller organizations and users of the cloud have learned in the last year?

[11:25] What cloud applications are you surprised saw growth in the last 18–24 months, or are there some that are on the verge of seeing more adoption?

[15:43] For smaller businesses, it’s an even greater undertaking to migrate legacy workloads to the cloud. How do they overcome?

[21:06] How should companies address their home-grown legacy apps and how do they get them to the cloud?

[29:20] Where are we going to find the talent to fill cloud positions?

[35:35] What does the cloud landscape look like in ten years?

TechSperience Trends Episode 1: Cloud Myths... Apr 28, 2022 Connection

It’s time to put some common cloud myths to rest. Here are the most pervasive myths about the cloud and some clarification about what the cloud can actually offer your organization.

Host: James Hilliard

Guest: Jeff Doolan, Vice President of Microsoft at Connection

Listen Now

Show Notes:

[1:02] Introduction of guest

[1:40] Technology myths in general

[3:08] Where do these myths start?

[4:52] What are the top three cloud myths that you think are being perpetuated?

[6:10] Where did the myth that “cloud is expensive” come from?

[10:51] Is the cloud actually cheaper?

[12:45] Can we confidently say that public cloud is secure?

[16:32] Who should be involved in early conversations to ensure security is at the forefront in a cloud migration?

[21:56] Is it still a pervasive myth that “I lose control over my data in the cloud?”

[26:05] Should companies put all or some of the data in the cloud?

[29:23] How do you stay up to speed on cloud information?

A Day in the Life of a Connection Partner... Apr 26, 2022 Hallee Quinn

Becoming a Partner Development Specialist (PDS) at Connection is a great way to grow within the company. As a PDS, I have different types of tasks that I do on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis—which keeps things interesting! For instance, some days I put on my creative genius hat and come up with new incentives and fresh marketing ideas. Other days require me to put on a trainer hat and educate sales about various cutting-edge products. These varied tasks help you determine your strengths and give you the freedom to build on them. Some of what I do includes:

  • Rolling out price changes to help us stay ahead of the competition
  • Setting up programs to help our Account Managers get competitive pricing
  • Creating marketing materials for the Sales Team and customers
  • Creating and promoting incentives that help partners stand out and get attention
  • Overseeing internal Focus Days that elevate products and build a pipeline for business
  • Assisting Account Managers with product questions (Always be a go-to product expert!)
  • Browsing Open Quotes and proactively contacting Account Managers on ways to help win business

A large part of this job involves building relationships within the workplace. One of the biggest roles I have is working with global IT leaders. For instance, over the past four years I’ve been working closely with experts from HP. Through them, I’ve been able to learn about everything from ink, toner, and print hardware to personal systems and beyond. I’ve found—in this position—making yourself available as the go-to will help you become more successful.

The sky is the limit for a Partner Development Specialist. It’s up to YOU to make it your own role. Sound like fun? Find out for yourself by applying today.

Empower Your Manufacturing Employees with... Apr 26, 2022 Ryan Spurr

There has never been a more exciting time to start your journey when it comes to sensors. There are so many technologies and options in the marketplace. The choice for which options you leverage depends on your business goals, existing infrastructure, and how you plan to scale proof of concepts everywhere. 

This is where Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors set a new standard for companies seeking to deliver quick time to value, leverage existing and trusted infrastructure, and provide a growing array of long-lasting and beneficial sensor technologies to instrument any part of the manufacturing value stream.

Technology that Scales Quickly

We have seen this written about extensively. Engineers implement a sensor or smart technology in a single plant only to learn it cannot scale across the business into other plants, office spaces, or global operations. This is what the industry calls “pilot purgatory,” and it’s where well-intended initiatives go to fail. Why is this the case? 

While the technology selected might have met its purpose, the chosen technologies didn’t meet corporate policies, cybersecurity requirements, nor did they integrate in any thoughtful way with the existing IT or plant technologies used across the business. This lack of trust, integration with the larger enterprise, and its ability to rapidly scale with little friction limited its future. What if we could select technologies that are pervasive, could ride atop many brands and infrastructure solutions, and could scale up to meet the ambitions of the engineers and leadership alike?

BLE-based sensors are replacing many of today’s legacy technologies for just these reasons. These devices support extended battery life, integrate with IT’s trusted network technologies from Cisco, Meraki, Aruba, Juniper, and can ride atop a widening range of infrastructures such as wireless access points, beacon extenders, mobile devices, and even smart cameras. 

To learn more about how wireless networking is evolving to include technologies like BLE, check out our prior blogs.

What makes this all possible? All of these devices are pervasive in any office space, factory floor, outdoor yard, or warehouse and are now packed with BLE antennas, creating a mesh network of native gateways anywhere in the enterprise. This is huge! It means that we can deploy smart sensors in any department for any process improvement initiative and quickly scale it everywhere. 

Beyond the ease of deployment or scale, imagine what this does to the cost of technology acquisition and the dreaded need to provide business justification (aka, return on investment). If information technology has deployed smart cameras and next-generation wireless access points in all facilities, the cost to deploy sensors just went way down. You need only to acquire a software license and sensor—whether on a limited quantity to run a proof of concept or at volume. Either way, you can quickly acquire, connect, and evaluate if a sensor combined with people, processes, and technology will yield the desired business outcome and meet target KPIs.

Couple this infrastructure with a growing number of BLE-based sensors, and you can start to imagine how this technology isn’t just impactful for a limited few or engineers with the skillsets to deploy. Now any department in the enterprise can apply sensors to solve business objectives like safety, health, environment, capital asset management, and even continuous improvement studies. 

Temperature and Humidity: Many types of sensors exist, but temperature and humidity are some of the most commonly deployed. It’s simple to understand and can be easily correlated to the conditions of just about any business, industry, and process. From monitoring cold storage, setting control limits in factories, monitoring facilities to optimize energy and employee comfort levels, and even monitoring workplace health conditions. We have many customers even deploying this technology into IT network closets, data centers, and other environments that might impact the performance of critical technology and require alerts in the case of cooling issues or fire.

It's also important to understand that technology is no longer working in isolation. For example, I mentioned BLE-antennas embedded into smart cameras. Not only might a temperature sensor collect data and alert for specific conditions, but these sensors now work in tandem with smart cameras and business management systems. When the temperature meets a threshold, it might not only alert a key stakeholder but also correlate a specific event detected by the camera—such as an IT employee leaving a data center door open or an operator leaving a fridge door open—making it easier to determine the cause of the event and aid in employee retraining or corrective action.

Employee Safety and Mustering: Unlike temperature sensors, there are now many sensor options aligned to support environmental, health, and safety use cases. This includes smart sensors that can monitor multiple environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, particulate, TVOCs, and ambient noise. 

On the worker-safety side, sensor-based badge technology allows for all employees to have BLE-based sensors attached to their badge with push buttons to alert for help (think slips, trips, falls, or equipment injuries), quickly locate the employee anywhere in the facility to aid in the emergency response process—and in the event of a fire or facilities event—track the safe mustering of all employees and guests.

Continuous Improvement Events: Data is critical to any kaizen event, but what if the data you seek isn’t readily available? What if the team’s next step is to validate its assumptions? How might you leverage sensors to help identify the root cause or even support the team in identifying ways to improve? With sensors that can track the real-time flow of people, vehicles, and things, or take any number of measurements, sensors layered atop of a BLE-based infrastructure can be an elegant way to collect real-time data over a period of performance. That data can then be used to support root cause, corrective action, and verification efforts.

Predictive Maintenance: For any manufacturer dependent on factory machines or facilities equipment like HVAC, moving away from traditional maintenance approaches to a real-time data-driven model is essential to improve visibility of potential equipment issues, proactively maintain equipment that may fail early, and avoid costly downtime. 

While sensors are not the only option to support predictive maintenance (e.g., industrial IoT data acquisition and automation can also help where PLCs exist), sensors can play an important role, especially in situations where equipment is less sophisticated. Think of a simple pump, that legacy motor with no connectivity or intelligence, or other physical equipment that can vibrate, wobble, overheat, or smoke. Sensors can be applied to these types of equipment to ensure proper operation, generate alerts with drifting performance criteria, automate specific downstream tasks with ERP, MES, or Maintenance Management software, and provide plant teams with excellent visibility into their critical equipment.

Automation: An everyday but straightforward use case is how to automate a call for help or trigger a specific business process. Simple BLE-based sensors now exist that allow you to place push-button sensors anywhere in a factory, warehouse, or office location to drive automation. Common examples include placing engineering support calls to support operators who must call for supervisory or engineering support to address a machine equipment failure or quality issue. Another example would be to call material management or line-side stocking teams to replenish material at a specific location. Some companies use the same technology for less glamorous tasks like alerting facilities and janitorial staff to a cleanliness issue in a bathroom. Whatever the situation, you can see how a simple, customizable button might be used across a manufacturing facility to alert, integrate, and automate tasks.

End-to-End Manufacturing Visibility

Sensor technology is rapidly evolving and easier to acquire, deploy, and integrate data to bring business value-based outcomes. BLE is a popular and practical technology to automate wasteful activities, deliver cost-effective solutions, and improve business processes and customer experience. If your business is looking to explore sensor technologies or automate various business processes aligned with corporate goals, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

Create a Safer Manufacturing Workplace with... Apr 21, 2022 Ryan Spurr

When it comes to location solutions, so much attention is spent tracking materials, products, and vehicles. Automation and business system integration in these typical areas can deliver outstanding business outcomes for manufacturers, but what about our most valuable assets: employees?

Regarding employee-based location solutions, peoples’ initial thoughts typically point to one of two places. First, tracking employees for more nefarious purposes like ensuring employees act a certain way and do what they should. This is often frowned upon by unions and can create distrust among employees. The second is employee safety or workplace enhancements that improve the employee experience. With the latter, we can include employees as part of the business change and put improvements in place that visibly improve or protect their interests.

If your company values safety, health, and environment, or has strategic initiatives in these areas, consider how location technology can play a part in improving employees’ well-being and help your teams measure success. Let’s take a quick look at how these technologies come together to make all this possible.


Next-generation location solutions like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are becoming pervasive with the implementation of modern wireless access points and beacons. For example, both Aruba and Cisco Meraki access points include BLE antennas. This means that the infrastructure necessary to leverage BLE location services may already exist (if your IT organization recently upgraded wireless), or your organization should be considering this with its next upgrade.

To learn more about Bluetooth Low Energy technologies in more detail, check out our prior blogs. This is a game-changer for other business functions like HR, Safety and Health, and Facilities because it means that you can quickly adopt safety-based location solutions at lower entry-cost points, and the same solutions can promptly scale to any site in the company. If there are gaps in the deployment of BLE-enabled access points, beacons can be added that can connect to existing wireless or wired networks, extending the range or coverage where BLE doesn’t exist. This is especially useful where access point density is limited, in bizarre corners of buildings where wireless signals are weaker, or in the case where wireless may not exist at all.

Tags and Sensors

With the proper infrastructure, we can turn our attention to how we tag employees, deploy sensors that monitor the safety conditions of the environment, or push buttons that allow employees to alert for help. 

Employee tags have come a long way. For example, today’s tags are the same size as an employee badge or contained within a retractable lanyard adaptor and last years on a single battery. Some options exist with programmable buttons that can be used to call for help or trigger another desired business event. Sensors can monitor temperature, light levels, humidity, air quality, and even occupancy levels. All of this comes together to ensure that conditions are optimized or alerted to when employee safety might drift towards or breach control limits. Together, this can create a smarter workplace and better working conditions that help to attract and retain employees while keeping everyone safe.

Software and Quick Time to Value

Lastly, it’s software that integrates all this technology and delivers business value. Today’s software is easy to acquire, deploy, and brings value in minutes. For example, you can buy a starter kit from many partners, enter license keys, and be online in under 15 minutes with little effort. This makes proof of concepts and scaling a breeze. The software provides many out-of-the-box capabilities, dashboards, alerts, and event management. And when you have outgrown the basics or wish to integrate the data with business systems, these same toolsets offer application programmer interfaces (APIs) to bring higher forms of data integration and automation to the business.

Driving Safety through a Connected Workplace

Safety and employee experience are top of mind for almost every manufacturer we engage. Keeping employees safe, productive, and retained are goals worth pursuing, especially in today’s marketplace. Bluetooth Low Energy infrastructure, along with a wide range of safety, environmental, and employee-based solutions is a great place to initiate your next smart initiative that aims to empower and protect your very most valuable asset, your employees. If your business is looking to explore location technologies or automate various business processes, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and how its many use cases can benefit your organization.

A Full-Circle Connection Customer Success... Apr 19, 2022 Makayla Mota

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, educators were faced with huge challenges while transitioning to virtual learning. At the time, Cindy Danielsa former Principal turned Professional Learning Consultant and certified MIE at Connectionhad been working with and training K–12 teachers. She quickly transitioned her own approach, and began virtually training educators on how they could use Microsoft 365 to better reach students and organize their classes and content. Amid the chaos and questions regarding education in those first few months, she had a lingering thought:

Why Are We Not Helping New Teachers?

Never one to shy away from challenges, Cindy reached out to a former professor at the University of North Carolina with the hopes that she could offer training to students enrolled in the Teaching Fellows program at UNC Chapel Hill. Here, Cindy met Dr. Jennifer Diliberto, the Director of UNC Chapel Hill Teaching Fellows and Clinical Associate Professor of Special Education and Literacy. The two formed an immediate bond and immediately set up a series of Microsoft Pilot Academies for Jen’s students.

“I look at things as an opportunity,” Jen says, “and now is a prime opportunity to make sure that we do, in teacher education, what we should have been doing for a long time in making sure that our pre-service teachers have a level of comfort with teaching face-to-face as well as virtually. So, we just organically started digging into all of the Microsoft tools last year and for me, as an instructor, I’ve embedded the use of Teams in all of my projects.”

Through Cindy’s Microsoft training, Jen continued incorporating Microsoft tools into her own teaching, in turn, allowing her students to experience first-hand the power various Microsoft programs can have in the classroom. After struggling for a way to log case studies virtually, Jen began using OneNote and creating sections for each of the exceptionality areas and then pages for each of the cases.

“Through all of Cindy’s wonderful trainings, we’re helping to give the students some ideas of how they might be able to utilize the tools,” Jen shares.

Powerful Education Tools for Better Learning Outcomes

Dasia Toone is one of those students. She is a bright and energetic student teacher enrolled in the UNC Chapel Hill Teaching Fellows program. She is currently teaching in an EC Resource class for K–5 students in Durham, NC. The night Cindy covered Flipgrid in Jen’s class a light bulb went off. Dasia had been struggling to extract information from one of her 4th grade students, explaining that he is very verbally expressive but checks out when it comes time to write.

“We only have 30 minutes and half of those minutes are transition times, so we had to get down to the nitty gritty and it just wasn’t happening. I could see that this student was getting frustrated. We really were working on detail and beginning, middle, and end in his writing. I went to class, and we started talking about Flipgrid and I thought—hmm maybe I could try this with my student and so we tried it literally the next day.”

Flipgrid is a video discussion app that allows teachers to create prompts for students to respond to. The student is then allowed to create a video answering the prompts and presenting material. It excels at allowing students to be creative and silly and has a unique and special power to draw out even the most introverted kids. I know because I have seen it. I have seen it work wonders in the classroom for both students and teachers. As Dasia talks about her student and the strides that he has made using Flipgrid this year, her eyes light up and a giant smile plays across her face. The pride and accomplishment of reaching a student and presenting another option to something that may have been difficult for them is written across her face, and soon all four of us on the Teams call are grinning from ear to ear. Education is powerful, and when teachers are presented with the right tools, they can do anything and all students can succeed.

“It has been a turnaround for that student. I am seeing him write, or speak, more in detail without that frustration and he is able to really give us some quality work. I would say that it has been a transition for me, as well. Going into this program, my teaching philosophy was a bit anti-technology. I had this idea that you couldn’t truly learn if there was so much access to technology. I am already seeing a shift as to how much I use it as an elementary school teacher. It has been a way to break through to my students.”

Dasia is also using Flipgrid for her social emotional check ins. A few weeks ago while doing a Flipgrid prompt, her student got visibly frustrated and had a meltdown. Dasia then flipped the activity on its head asking her student to create a 5-minute video on how he was doing that day. The student responded so well that she has incorporated this technique into her solution strategies.

“He likes that a lot because he doesn’t have to talk directly to me, but he knows I am going to listen to it and comment. He has a little room where he escapes for privacy, even though he knows I am going to see it. He gets to perform and express himself—through his writing and his emotions—to the computer.”

Empowering the Students of Today

Dasia has also seen him grow tenfold in confidence over the course of the year, even taking on a mentor role to new students, something she doesn’t think he would have ever done without that Flipgrid confidence boost.

“We have some behavioral issues, and he is generally resistant to everything I say except Flipgrid! He loves it. We also just got a new student, so yesterday he made a Flipgrid and showed the new student how to make a Flipgrid alongside him. It was really cute.”

As Dasia speaks about this student and the ways that he has grown, she suddenly has another idea of how she could use Flipgrid with her 3rd grade math students. She envisions asking them to be the teachers and creating videos explaining the mathematical concepts they are learning for each other, explaining that Flipgrid is so versatile that you can use it for any subject. She’s excited and vibrant and I can see what a great teacher she is already, and the impact Microsoft tools have made on her teaching style thanks to the training and innovative leadership of Cindy and Jen. Teaching has gone through a big and tumultuous transition these last few years, but through my conversation with Cindy, Jen, and Dasia I see a whole lot of hope and promise for the future of education. These three educators have impacted so many students—from K-12 to Higher Education—in the past two years by using various Microsoft Education tools and tailoring them to their specific classroom and the struggles they face. Training educators on how to use Microsoft tools makes the possibilities limitless.

The Power of Wow

Before we end our conversation, I ask if there is anything anyone wants to add about their experience using Microsoft in the classroom and Jen says, “the wow power,” and laughs. I ask her to elaborate.

“I had a meeting with a student just a little bit ago, who’s one of my interns, and she needed some support with her own learning. I was sharing Immersive Reader because she’s doing a lot of reading right now. She said that what’s always been so hard when doing research is getting through all of the material and reading it. So having the screen reader and using the dictation piece can be so empowering—to anybody, not just someone with a disability. It equals the playing field for someone with a disability, but then it just makes life simpler. I was telling the student you can have the Immersive Reader read the article while you’re listening, then you don’t have to focus on deciphering and comprehending the words. You just need to focus on comprehending the language, and then you can take notes while it’s reading to you. Kind of like you would during a lecture, right? Wow. So, yes, the wow power.”

Inside Look: Connection’s Technology... Apr 13, 2022 Connection

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 in our TIDC? Browse some of our current open positions or contact one of our hiring managers directly.

Hiring Managers: David Evans, Alisa Pisarcik, Rick Lawrey, or Robert Bush

Inside Sales Account Manager - SLED

Hiring Manager: John Milburn

Imaging and Install Technician – Corporate – Configuration Services

Hiring Manager: John Milburn

Master Scheduler

Hiring Manager: Nathan Byers

Program Manager TIDC

The Impact of Collaboration in Healthcare Apr 12, 2022 Dr Keith Nelson

Collaboration in healthcare is generally defined as two or more healthcare professionals working together to optimize the treatment plan and health outcome for a patient. The backgrounds of the participating professionals can range from primary and tertiary care providers, to pharmacists, geneticists, physical therapists, social workers, dieticians, and/or any other allopathic or alternative therapy practitioners.

The tangible benefits of such a collaboration include a reduction in medical errors, medication errors and duplicative tests, as well as innovative brainstorming, quicker patient throughput, and improved provider satisfaction that accompanies a democratized and collegial care process. From a broader perspective, it seems reasonable to expect a reduction in the large number of annual patient visits currently taxing the healthcare system as well as the number of inappropriate treatment plans and unnecessary surgeries.

A 2017 study of 286 patients conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that as many as 88% patients seeking a second opinion leave the office with a new or refined diagnosis and 21% of them receive a significantly different diagnosis.  With this in mind, one could argue that the existing pervasive environment of medical silos is among the most serious deficits in the American healthcare system. Patients typically see a primary care provider (PCP) for an ailment, and often then get referred to one or more specialists in a very disjointed process which involves jockeying for appointments, a significant time commitment, traveling, paying additional fees, and ultimately reporting back to the busy PCP.

But There Has Been Progress Toward Improvement

Obamacare ushered-in a great number of changes in the delivery of healthcare.  In general, the sector has been shifting from a fee-for-service system to a pay-for-performance/value-based system.  This evolution, in which healthcare providers assume financial risk, is forcing doctors and hospitals to become more efficient in order to survive, and to have skin in the game when it comes to patient outcomes. One outgrowth of this systemic shift has been the incentivization to create Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and patient-centered medical homes, where a primary care physician becomes the coordinating advocate (or general contractor) for a patient.  But these are small steps because the tertiary/specialist silos still exist and separately report back to a single source, leading to delayed and sometimes disorderly case coordination and follow-through. Accordingly, there is a clear need to get everyone in the same room, and we’re thankfully starting to see motion in this direction.

The most visible current example of such a collaborative approach is the engagement of multidisciplinary tumor boards at hospitals to evaluate and treat cancer patients.  Although the majority of institutions limit tumor board activity to only the most complex cases, there is a growing movement to apply them to every cancer patient. To this end, given the successful track record of this approach, it seems like a natural extension for providers to create collaborative boards to manage other chronic diseases, beginning with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and arthritis.

One great area that could see substantive improvement is collaborative medication management. Prescription inertia where various specialists myopically write scripts for a patient to address a medical condition that intersects with their specific discipline, and where there is no intercession by a coordinating party (PCP), has created a runaway train. It is certainly not uncommon to see senior patients with a bag full of medications – a situation that often leads to many unintended consequences resulting from unanticipated drug interactions. Although interoperable EHRs have mitigated prescription and comorbidity miscommunication to some degree, they are not universally deployed and there is still the problem of PCPs being unwilling to challenge the judgment of their vaunted tertiary care colleagues.

Follow the Money

Finance continues to be the driving factor of change in healthcare (and just about everything else), although government subsidies and oligopoly positioning have historically insulated the sector, resulting in glacial progress when it comes to improvement in operational efficiency. But we seem to have hit a tipping point now that U.S. health expenditures represent north of 19% of the GNP. Consequently, innovations such as value-based care (where, again, providers are at financial risk), population health management and collaborative care have been gaining wide acceptance. Not surprisingly, these types of initiatives rely heavily on technology.

Leveraging Technology

On the most basic level, collaboration requires a real-time exchange of accurate information.  This has been the driver for the promotion and subsequent adoption of Electronic Health Records, a movement that was the centerpiece of the HITECH Act which was part of the 2009 Obamacare Affordable Care Act.  Although most healthcare providers have adopted an EHR, interoperability between disparate entities remains an obstacle to a large degree.

When it comes to approaches to achieve tactical/procedural improvements to patient care and workflow efficiency such as population health and chronic disease management, many technologies are being employed.  Among these are sophisticated analytics of voluminous data from multiple sources, AI-driven clinical decision support, telemedicine and remote patient monitoring (including access to wearable fitness device data). For care coordination, timely and often frequent communication between the provider(s) and patient is essential, to wit: secure email, texting/DM, patient portals and apps – the digital front door.There’s clearly a lot of work to be done in order to break down the isolated silos in healthcare, but hopefully with some elbow grease, compassion, ingenuity, focus (“Be the ball, Danny”), and probably an instinct for financial preservation, we will enter a new era with vastly improved, highly personalized and efficient patient care.

Jumpstart Advanced Tracking with Mobility Apr 07, 2022 Ryan Spurr

When it comes to location solutions, most often fixate on larger-scale fixed infrastructure and complex use cases. In the case of RFID, we think of choke points or dock doors with fixed readers and antennas. For Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), we think of next-generation wireless access points with embedded BLE antennas. Whatever the use case and infrastructure, these depend upon a significant investment into equipment that must be budgeted, planned, installed, and tuned. For many organizations, this leap to larger installations may be harder to sell to leadership and financial officers or fraught with many challenges and lessons learned along the way.

What if there was another way to jump-start your location and tracking initiatives? What if you could start down this path without all the fixed infrastructure, making it easier to vet the technology, gain buy-in, and prove the value to leaders?

To learn more about Bluetooth Low Energy or Passive RFID technologies in more detail, check out those past blogs.

The good news is that there is an alternative to launching location solutions without significant investments into infrastructure. It’s actually where many of our partners recommend that you start your journey. Why? Because location solutions are more than just the antennas used to read them. Most manufacturers have complex environments full of RF interference, complex use cases, and various assets or products to be tracked. Starting with bounded use cases and less complex hardware makes it easier to address early decision points and gain familiarity with the technology, without the full-up installation and hardware acquisitions.

Start Simple Approach

  1. Understand the Use Cases: What problems does the business have with people, processes, and tools? Where is waste, human error, or opportunities to automate needless tasks? What is the cost of not acting? How will automation improve KPIs or business outcomes? Taking stock of why you might apply enabling technologies to make the business better is always the first step. It will aid partners like Connection, peers, and business stakeholders to understand how to help you, what technologies to apply, where you’re seeking to start or scale to—and most importantly—assist your team in justifying any investment.

  2. Identify What Needs to Be Tracked: Different location technologies have various pros and cons. These technologies are applied differently depending on what you want to track. What are the objects you plan to locate? How do you track them today? How often must you update their location (seconds, minutes, hours, or days)? What systems track these objects (ERP, WMS, MES, CMMS, or SCADA)? What is the environment like (hot, cold, indoors, outdoors, rugged, clean areas, or any specific regulations)? What is the nature of the objects? This last question is fundamental, since it will dictate what technologies might support tracking. It will impact how location tags are affixed, how they perform, and what kind of tag might be required. Understanding the objects in your use cases may be the most complex aspect of location solutions. This is why teams spend so much time upfront understanding how things are managed within operations to select the best fitting tag technologies to maximize the use case.

  3. Start Simple with Mobility: You can start with fixed infrastructure, but many use cases can begin with a mobility-first proof of concept. In fact, for some organizations utilizing mobile devices with built-in BLE, RFID, and 1D/2D scanning is a great short and long-term solution. Today’s smart mobile devices can do it all. These devices are much more affordable, allowing an individual or team to acquire a limited number of mobile devices as part of the proof of concept. They can then procure different tags to validate which tag or technology type will work best with the object being tracked and its environment. And perhaps equally important, they can validate the location software on the devices and business integrations to ensure automation is feasible and meets business outcomes.

Starting Use Cases for Location via Mobility

Material or Finished Goods Tracking: Many of our customers seek to track materials or finished goods. This can take on different forms, depending on what they produce and how it’s managed (think process vs. discrete-based). Tracking solutions are a great fit if there is something of value or criticality to optimize and ensure that products are traced and delivered on time to customers or that materials are regularly misplaced.

With mobile devices, we can quickly look up what we’re tracking, where it was last, where it is now, and if we need to get more granular—we can use the mobile device to narrow into exactly where that thing is. We can also use these devices to scan barcodes, RFID, or BLE tags and integrate that data into business systems as we do with traditional barcode-only scanners. This means the same device can scan legacy tracking and modern solutions from the same device.

Manufacturing Tools and Production Equipment: Let’s face it, things go missing! Whether items are misplaced, buried around or near other objects, or hoarded by an engineer unwilling to part with an in-demand tool—losing equipment and tools can impact how plants get work done. With mobile tracking solutions, employees can quickly locate an item on a map (using active tracking like BLE) or Geiger Location (using passive RFID) to home into that missing thing.

IT Hardware, Machines, Fixtures, and More: One of the most pervasive and scalable solutions, for smart mobile devices with location capability, is tracking things in support of production. These could be IT assets, fixtures, production equipment, facilities equipment, or anything that requires locating, validating its identity, and collecting data against. With mobility tracking, engineers, facilities, or support teams can quickly find equipment anywhere. And because the mobile devices are smart, you can leverage these devices to perform other job duties like paperless forms, working with business systems or maintenance applications—and even collaborating with peers.

Keep the Manufacturing Process Moving

Smart mobile devices with location solution technology are a great way to evaluate or jumpstart automation location use cases. Mobility is an affordable and practical technology alternative vs. fixed infrastructure. With easy-to-deploy hardware and software, it’s an excellent start to automate wasteful activities, deliver cost-effective solutions, and improve business processes and customer experience. If your business is looking to explore location technologies or automate various business processes, don’t hesitate to engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and how its many use cases can benefit your organization.

How to Optimize the Factory and Supply Chain... Apr 06, 2022 Ryan Spurr

When people think of location solutions, they often think of RFID first. While other technologies now exist, RFID maintains a relevant role in locations solutions driven by its strong market presence and partly due to its robust implementation base, maturity, and reliability. Passive RFID may be an older technology compared to other standards, but it continues to evolve and maintains many benefits worthy of its continued usage in manufacturing.

What’s New with RFID Tags?

While all elements of the technical stack have evolved over the years, the first thing to consider with RFID is tags. Tags have dramatically transformed over the decades. Today, tags come in many shapes and sizes, specifically to optimize how tags attach, operate, and optimize how you locate objects being tracked. In addition to their advancing diversity, tag prices have dramatically reduced (they approach pennies for high volume use cases). Tags can also be printed using industrial RFID label printers, making it easy for manufacturers to replace traditional 1D/2D labels with RFID labels, while maintaining existing label processes and human-readable content. And just because RFID tags are typically passive, don’t think all tags must be “boring.” High-end RFID tags exist that can support high-temperature environments like kilns. Some collect sensor data such as temperature, humidity, or vibration, and others can even provide tamper evidence to ensure supply chain protection.

Moving up the stack, antennas and readers have also evolved. While some of the very same technologies exist, antennas come in many different flavors, making it easier to apply RFID in a broad range of use cases, minimizing the impact on the environments utilized within, and improving execution effectiveness. When I first implemented RFID decades ago, the antennas were simple, bulky, and visible. Today’s antennas include table mats, under workbench mounts, floor pads, door-jam attachments, and all-in-one dock door setups, and they can be mounted just about anywhere. Gone are the days when RFID was only relevant at limited choke points. Manufacturers are free to envisage many new scenarios to leverage this proven technology both in tags and supporting infrastructure.

Where—and How—to Begin Tracking with RFID

For those without any location solutions in place, another consideration is how and where to start your RFID journey. Like any initiative with boundless use cases and technologies, it’s best to keep it simple. First, RFID uses, of course, radio frequencies. And radio frequencies in manufacturing environments may be complicated by electronic emittance from machinery or limited by shelving, other physical facility structures, and—most importantly—the objects being tracked themselves. Therefore, it’s vital to assess the feasibility of RFID with your use case and environment. To address this, most initiatives require a site assessment, a review of the objects being tracked, and the risks to the radio frequency. All of this leads to the selection of the best-fitting tag(s). 

This is where many clients waste their valuable time money—or fail altogether—so it’s essential to leverage a partner with deep RFID experience who can quickly assess and recommend tags and antennas that deliver results for your intended use case. 

In addition to fixed antennas and reader infrastructure, many organizations start out leveraging RFID smart mobile devices. Most RFID software platforms are designed to work with fixed and mobile RFID technologies. Starting with a lower-cost mobile RFID device makes it easier to test the performance of tags in different use cases. This includes the often sought-after “geiger counter” functionality or the ability for employees to hunt for misplaced objects while walking around the facility. Leveraging mobile devices in the proof-of-concept phase also speeds time to value, lowers phase one implementation costs, and quickly allows your organization to prove the technology. So don’t try to do it all; take a bounded approach that leads to quick results, confidence, and continued support from stakeholders to scale or invest in more complex implementations.

Bring It All Together with RFID Software Options

Lastly, it’s essential to acknowledge what makes all this hardware work—software. This is perhaps the area of RFID I’m most excited about because my past was fraught with expensive RFID software systems, limited functionality, and never-ending challenges to maintain and keep operational. Today’s RFID software partners have robust platforms designed for on-premises and cloud, providing full integration capabilities with a wide range of hardware and business systems, making integration with business processes and applications that we wish to automate far more straightforward and productive.

Popular use cases include:

• Tool tracking: Due to a low profile and lower cost, RFID tags make an excellent option for tracking tools. Many organizations will have mobile or fixed readers to quickly scan tools as they leave tool closets or cribs, move between work cells or larger facility spaces, and arrive at the final destination. Many organizations also use tags to ensure tools are returned, and in hoarding situations, tags can be helpful in quickly locating coveted equipment or tools.

• Job or product tracking: Many organizations, especially in discrete manufacturing, have high-value parts or finished goods they wish to track through crucial process points or at a more granular level to automate traceability and integration with business systems, improve visibility, and ensure these products can be located in the event of misplacement. Tagging job paperwork, products, or packaging through the process can easily allow companies to improve how they track and optimize their workflows incrementally.

Are you looking for a use case sure to get the attention of any CFO and deliver a strong return on investment? Many organizations will utilize product tracking (whether on the product or its final packaging) to optimize the shipping process, correlate with sales orders, and streamline manual financial and customer invoicing processes to speed up how manufacturers get paid.

• Pallet or packaging tracking: Every manufacturer is different. Some products are destined for the customer and never return to the facility as part of a larger product lifecycle. For those that do have reusable pallets, specialty packaging, or products that return to the facility for repair or services, RFID tracking is a great way to track products as they arrive at customers (think about offering your clients automation and advanced supply chain notifications (ASN)) or fully automating the receiving process and delivering real-time information to an eager customer looking to ensure it hits your dock.

• Supply chain tracking: For those high-value or high-risk supply chain challenges (whether a permanent capability or as part of a short-term root cause analysis activity), RFID tags exist that can collect environmental data associated with the proper care during delivery and storage. Tamper evidence tags can also be utilized to ensure products are not compromised in transit. Whatever the case, these technologies can be used to optimize, protect, and automate various aspects of the supply chain to ensure products safely reach the ultimate customer and don’t compromise your brand.

There are many ways the technology can be applied to make manufacturing and the supply chain smarter. RFID is a practical technology to automate wasteful activities, deliver cost-effective solutions, and improve business processes and customer experience with its long-standing precedence and diversity.

If your business is looking to explore location technologies or automate various business processes aligned with corporate goals, contact an Account Manager today. They can connect you with Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

Tracking the Supply Chain: Why GPS... Apr 05, 2022 Ryan Spurr

Most locations solutions we think of include asset or material tracking inside of a typical facility. These are tried and true use cases to improve operations with technologies like RFID, wireless, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). But what about outside of the four walls? How does a modern manufacturer track high-value products in transit or across the supply chain? How do we track forklifts, vehicles, and trucks in transit? How do we optimize operations in a yard or extended outdoor territory where operations might be equally important or benefit from data to optimize processes, reduce theft, and improve safety?

The solution is simple: Global Positioning Systems (GPS). This technology isn’t new. Heavily used in military, commercial, and civilian life, we have come to rely upon this technology to locate and navigate our world. The business use cases for GPS are no different. Low-cost GPS sensors and products now exist to make it easy to track any business asset, whether on corporate property, in the woods, or in transit to a customer.

Along with a range of proven business use cases and underlying technologies, the deployment, management, dashboards, and data integration have all significantly improved to benefit how manufacturers add smart value chains. Imagine a world where a GPS sensor can last five years on a single charge. When the sensor breaches a virtual zone, the sensor awakes to transmit its location, shares zone status and other metadata, alerts key stakeholders, and triggers integrations that further automate business processes. These features are a reality today! And utilized in use cases from theft detection, inappropriate employee behavior detection, safety, and customer experience.

Powerful, Flexible GPS Technology

The technology couldn’t be easier to acquire and deploy. At the heart is a GPS-enabled device. Many types exist with form, fit, and function-changing abilities that adapt to use cases and the object it is attached to. These devices are battery operated, utilize low-bandwidth communication technologies, and even maximize how and when they communicate to get years out of a single charge. In addition to location, many of these units can also detect other data about their environment—via embedded sensors—including impact, temperature, and humidity.

Today’s sensors can communicate in a variety of means, adjusting and providing options for manufacturers based on their specific deployment use case. Two of the most common connectivity options include cellular and LoRaWAN. The first should be obvious to most. These sensors and their services include options like 4G or 5G—and often use lightweight protocols such as IoT. Cellular is best used when assets are in transit over longer ranges, or outside of the typical business possession—like in a yard or outside a production facility. For use cases that are localized, LoRaWAN is a great option with a range of up to 15 miles. It’s simple to deploy LoRaWAN gateways that securely connect to existing network infrastructures.

Lastly, connecting and integrating data couldn’t be easier. All providers of GPS technologies today include dashboards that are easily managed and help you get everyday value, triggers, and application interfaces that drive automation options within business systems, cloud services, and third parties.

Vehicle Tracking, Fuel Optimization, and Safety
Telematics isn’t a new topic—but for those manufacturers with a fleet of service vehicles, sales vehicles, or delivery trucks, modern telematics can be anything from tracking the location of a vehicle to fuel and route optimization, safety and accident awareness, and a whole range of outstanding features that optimize vehicle management. Best of all, these solutions are easy to deploy and bring significant return on investment in areas like efficiencies, cost reductions, customer experience, and insurance fees.

In-Transit Tracking: Not all manufacturers make products that warrant in-transit tracking, but for those with high-value products, theft across the supply chain, or who have regulatory compliance to ensure safe delivery, GPS solutions can make this all very simple. This is especially true for industries with reuseable totes or containers. While some industries use passive RFID to track key logistics points—like shipping and receiving—GPS solutions allow you to track something in real time, provide updates on location, and can send alerts on adverse conditions that might lead to a change of course, damage, or even theft.

Outdoor Asset Tracking: Some manufacturers produce large products outdoors or have a requirement to track people, forklifts, tools, and vehicles in an expansive outdoor facility. These use cases are no different from that of an indoor facility, other than the technology used to track it. GPS can provide easily deployed location sensors with little to no outdoor tracking infrastructure. They can also integrate with business systems like MES, CMMS, ERP, and CRM to streamline operations.

How Can Your Business Benefit from GPS?

There are many ways the technology can be applied to make manufacturers’ extended enterprise and supply chain smarter. GPS is a practical technology to automate wasteful activities, deliver cost-effective solutions, and improve business processes and customer experience with its easy-to-deploy platforms—constraining you only to your imagination.

If your business is looking to explore location technologies or automate various business processes aligned with corporate goals, then engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

TechSperience Episode 103: How Public Sector... Mar 22, 2022 Connection

Learn more about the stimulus packages that have passed since COVID-19 and how it impacts information technology in the public sector space.

Host: James Hilliard

Guest 1: Jeff Chabot, Public Sector Segment Director for Schneider Electric

Jeff is the Segment Strategy Director of the Schneider Electric Federal Sales Team. His team is responsible to lead the sale, customer support, design, and implementation of critical power, cooling, and management solutions in U.S. government information technology environments within and outside the continental United States. In his 22 years at Schneider Electric, Jeff has held various sales and sales leadership roles in commercial sales, state and local government sales, and federal government sales. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Rhode Island College.

Show Notes:

[0:30] Introduction of guest

[0:45] What are the choices and funding that are currently available for the public sector?

[2:00] What should be at top of mind for State and Local to consider with the American Rescue Plan?

[4:05] Is there a time period that teams need to spend these funds?

[4:33] Within State and Local, what are some of the top areas where they can spend their funds?

[5:00] Where are IT professionals spending these funds?

[6:10] Where are K–12 focusing their purchases?

[8:05] Are there similar types of spending in Higher Education?

[8:57] What is the application process that IT professionals need to be aware of to access these funds?

[10:19] How smooth has the process and experience been for folks so far?

[11:13] Anything else we should know about the American Rescue Plan?

[12:25] Have funds started to be released for the new Infrastructure Plan?

[13:40] How is broadband defined now and how is it a part of the Infrastructure Plan?

[15:42] Will more rural areas see more funding for broadband investments?

[16:38] What are all the aspects of broadband that are covered in the Infrastructure Plan?

[19:43] Could the Infrastructure Plan help with supply chain issues, inflation, and efficiency?

[20:51] When can people begin to apply and access the funds from this new Infrastructure Plan? [21:22] What are some tips that you have that would make the most sense for people to spend these funds?