Connection Communityhttps://community.connection.com Official Technology Community of Connection Thu, 17 Jun 2021 14:28:49 +0000 hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.2 Don’t Just Back Up—Stay Operational:...https://community.connection.com/dont-just-back-up-stay-operational-backup-and-recovery-solutions-for-manufacturing/ Jun 17, 2021 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1359035-Manufacturing-Backup-and-Recovery-BLOG.jpg So many manufacturing conversations regarding business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) go like this when it comes to the plant floor: “We have an employee who walks around and periodically backs up our machines.” “We can live without some amount of data for a couple of days.” Or the classic, “We can make up lost production time with shifts through the weekend.” It’s frustrating to watch the most business-critical process in a manufacturing company be so undervalued that we don’t apply the same rigors we find in data centers to the profit-generating infrastructure building our customers’ products. 

This approach is an outdated mindset, and the assertions are falsely based on inaccurate risk assessments that wildly underestimate the actual impacts. In my experience, this only works if your goal is to check a box vs. a fundamental strategy of remaining online and operational all the time. Why are manufacturers so hyper-focused on uptime and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) but not on quickly recovering critical machines or an entire facility?

For example, past BCDR strategies worked fine when the only threat to your factory was a computer, disk, or software failure. But today’s plants are packed with a mix of legacy and modern technologies that the business depends upon to produce products uninterrupted. The recent pandemic also taught us that resiliency isn’t just about backups, but how quickly we can recover our facilities’ operations in an automated and unattended fashion. That employee running around with a USB stick may not be available when you need them most, or the backups stopped when that employee took a job promotion at a competitor.

Layer in the mounting cybersecurity events targeting the plant floor, and we are seeing a rapid increase in the frequency, impact, and outage periods. In 2020, manufacturing became the second most targeted industry with an alarming 33% of all cyber-theft incidents occurring in manufacturing. It’s now common for manufacturing plants to shutter for days or weeks as they recover lost data, rebuild machines, and return a plant to operation. Investment into security technology and resources is finite. Recent events are demonstrating that 31% of manufacturing experience unplanned failures in the plant and data centers, often resulting in significant downtime. 

Another reality we must consider is the continued rise in technology adoption amongst U.S. manufacturers to combat global pressures and any prevailing market headwinds. Whatever your company’s level of technology adoption to date—you should only expect more technology to be added into existing processes—not less. 

Manufacturers should all be asking themselves the following questions. How will your organization quickly recover corporate business systems and critical factory technology? How will your business minimize brand, sales, and customer impacts? How will your organization quickly restore your entire operational landscape in a mass security event? Would your organization be able to restore to anywhere, anytime, and with any resource?

The good news is there are many options available to protect your tech estate. Modern solutions exist that appeal to both traditional data center needs as well as the more heterogenous and legacy-based environment we see in factories, warehouses, and research. These solutions provide support for a wide range of operating systems and devices, and they integrate across the OT/IT landscape. Solutions can also span your hybrid environments, protecting physical plant machines, virtual machines, and other services in the cloud like AWS, Azure, Google, Microsoft 365, and more. Employees depend on all these resources, not just ERP.

If your organization lacks experience or skillsets, or is looking for staff augmentation, managed service offerings can also bring expertise in devising an integrated backup and disaster recovery solution that fits your business needs. Many also provide services to aid in the ongoing operational activities around backup, monitoring, and recovery in the event a disaster does strike.

Business continuity and resiliency are becoming more essential in companies as industrial transformation (IX) and technology adoption increase. Combine the financial and productivity impacts with effects on workforce morale, distractions from value-added activities, and impact on brand and deliverables, and your modern organization should be changing its view of business continuity and resilience risks. The risks are no longer realized in the off chance a weather event bears down on your facility, it’s now a combination of catastrophes, cybersecurity, unplanned failure or human error, and workforce disruption. 

To learn more about Connection’s Manufacturing Practice or to discuss the challenges and edge compute solutions highlighted in this article, contact us today.

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Find Highly Skilled Candidates for Your Open...https://community.connection.com/find-highly-skilled-candidates-for-your-open-it-positions-with-the-connection-it-staffing-team/ Jun 15, 2021 Chris Russel https://community.connection.com/author/chris-russel/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1360965-IT-Staffing-Blog.jpg When Connection employees clock in each day, you can expect an entire company ready to go above and beyond for our customers. The IT Staffing Team is no exception, from our Staffing BDMs to our IT Focused Recruitment team. We are vigorous and determined to deliver top tier talent to your organization. 

In the extremely competitive and fast-paced market of IT staffing, we are relentless and strategic when we search for the talent to fill our customers’ mission-critical roles. On average, candidates receive 3–5 offers prior to their final decision on which to accept. With candidates in such high demand, it’s crucial to work with a team that is in the trenches daily to help uncover the talent your organization needs. 

What to Expect from Our Team:

  • First-class talent acquisition: Our team is seasoned and understands the IT business in depth, including market trends.
  • Quality over quantity: You will receive candidates who only possess the skillset you need. We don’t have a “dart board” approach. You will save time and effort by only viewing quality candidates.
  • Extreme ownership: From sourcing, vetting candidates, and presenting and scheduling interviews—all the way to extending offers and handling timecards (for contract/contract-to-hire roles)—we own every step of the process. 
  • Nationwide expertise: We have filled positions in all 50 states, from challenging rural areas to overly competitive urban locations. Our team has contacts that have likely worked jobs in your area.  
  • No upfront cost or fees: When you work with our team, we don’t charge any fees upfront. You don’t pay until you select a candidate from us. 

Focus Areas:

  • End User Support: Helpdesk Technician, Desktop Support, IT Support Specialist, Tier I, II, and III Support Engineer, IT Specialist, IT Technician, IT Coordinator
  • Network Infrastructure: Network Administrator, Network Architect, Network Engineer, Cloud Architect, Cloud Administrator, Database Administrator, Systems Administrator, Security Engineer/Analyst 
  • Application Development: Application Developer, Programmer/ Analyst, Software Architect, Software Developer, Software Engineer, Software QA, Web Developer

What Our Customers Have to Say

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with the IT Staffing Team at Connection for the past 14+ years. Initially, the relationship was solely a supplier of computer equipment and professional technical services and consultation. Over the past 10 years, while serving in management, I’ve relied on Connection for IT Staffing. I have hub offices across the country and having Connection as a business partner to validate and prescreen candidates is vital. Connection has always presented us with quality professionals.” 

–Balfour Beatty Construction, a leader in the commercial construction space

“We have been using Connection for our IT staffing needs for over five years, and we have had nothing but the best service when it comes to quality, availability, and selection of candidates. It’s been extremely easy to provide our requirements and get an extremely fast turnaround for our needs.”

–Proquest, LLC, a global information-content and technology company

Challenging Market, Challenging Times

It’s no secret that the IT staffing market is as competitive as it’s ever been, and it’s even more challenging to find targeted skillsets. Let us do the digging for you and take the pressure off while you maintain your focus on your day-to-day responsibilities. Rest assured, your Connection IT Staffing Team is devoted and takes each position on as if it were our own. When you land the top tier candidate for your position, you win, and we win.Ready to find the right skilled candidates to fill your IT positions? Contact us today!

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Connection Earns Microsoft Azure Advanced...https://community.connection.com/connection-earns-microsoft-azure-advanced-specialization/ Jun 14, 2021 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1368323-Microsoft-Advanced-Specialization-Blog.jpg Great news for everyone out there who wants to make the jump to the cloud! Our team has recently been awarded a new Microsoft specialization for our expertise in helping organizations migrate to Azure. 

We’re proud holders of Microsoft’s Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure advanced specialization—a new endorsement that validates our team’s extensive knowledge, experience, and expertise in migrating Windows Server and SQL Server-based workloads to Azure. Microsoft awards the advanced specialization only to partners that meet stringent criteria around customer success and staff skilling, as well as pass a third-party audit of their migration practices. 

A big thanks to Microsoft for the new specialization—we look forward to helping customers migrate to the cloud and optimize their Azure investments. 

If you’re interested in the benefits of Azure, our team of cloud experts and dedicated Microsoft specialists offer an extensive portfolio of services, from Azure Migrate Assessments to Azure Managed ServicesCloud AssessmentsMicrosoft Modern Work and Security Services, and more. To learn more about Connection’s Microsoft Azure advanced specialization, read the official press release.

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Connection Named Aruba Federal Public Sector...https://community.connection.com/connection-named-aruba-federal-public-sector-partner-of-the-year-2021/ Jun 11, 2021 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1368143-Aruba-Award-BLOG.jpg We’re excited to share that Connection has been named Federal Public Sector Partner of the Year by Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. Our Public Sector team was presented with the honor at Aruba Atmosphere ’21, where top partners were recognized for their performance, technical capabilities, and dedication to customer service excellence. 

Our Federal customers are constantly searching for new ways to be more efficient and effective, and we’re proud to help them design, deploy, and support the latest technology solutions. The entire Connection team is dedicated to delivering the very highest levels of service—and it’s a true honor to be recognized by our partners for that commitment. Thank you to Aruba and our fantastic customers!

To learn more about the Aruba Federal Public Sector Partner of the Year Award, read the official press release.

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Honored to Serve the Needs of the Federal...https://community.connection.com/honored-to-serve-the-needs-of-the-federal-government/ Jun 10, 2021 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1367736-Honored-to-Serve-the-Needs-of-the-Federal-Government-BLOG.jpg Today, we’re proud to announce that our public sector subsidiary, Connection Public Sector Solutions, was awarded one of the GSA’s 2nd Generation Information Technology (2GIT) Blanket Purchase Agreements. As part of this purchase agreement, we will be able to better serve our Federal Government customers and efficiently deliver the technology solutions they count on for success.

Our Public Sector team has been hard at work developing solutions that meet the unique needs of our government customers, and this contract will allow them to offer our customers greater flexibility and a more efficient path to IT procurement.

To learn more about our participation in this purchase agreement, read the official press release.

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Manufacturers Focus on Smart Devices, but...https://community.connection.com/manufacturers-focus-on-smart-devices-but-what-about-power-management/ Jun 10, 2021 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1349918-ISG-Manufacturing-Power-Continuity-BLOG.jpg In today’s intelligent manufacturing world, we spend so much time focused on sensors, data acquisition, and advanced solutions like machine learning that we often overlook one critical foundational element: power management.

With smart factories comes an increased need to connect our factories and yield more intelligent operations and the basic need to keep this new technology powered. In a recent survey, 31% of respondents experienced downtime, and 48% reported at least one outage in their plant. So whether we are powering factory equipment, lighting, security cameras, physical access control, or the next generation of smart sensors, power is at the root of our ability to operate.

Power Management Problems to Consider

With all this industrial transformation comes challenges. Let’s explore some of these challenges your manufacturing organization should be considering with the deployment of Industry 4.0, or any technologies associated with plant operations.

  • Power Placement: How do we ensure we have electricity wherever technology is placed? As we install sensors, beacons, and other smart controls in ceiling, walls, or perhaps in places we have already exhausted typical electrical access, we must also consider how we will power them.
  • Reliable Power: How do we provide power backup? This technology is often core to operations or an overlay for auditing, safety, or regulations. Regardless, this technology becomes vital to optimizing processes and ensuring compliance. Therefore, these devices are becoming essential and must have power at all times.
  • Clean Power: How do we not affect the technology or processes due to power surges or fluctuations? Process equipment and electronics—especially those most sensitive technologies—depend on clean and consistent power not to interrupt or negatively affect their operation. Therefore, clean power is as important as having power.
  • Power Management: How do we simplify power deployment, monitoring, and ongoing management? Implementing smart power solutions allows our controls, facilities, and information technology employees to deploy power-based solutions more quickly while also improving monitoring and maintenance over time.

How to Solve the Manufacturing Power Problem

Let’s explore some of the power technologies available to support manufacturers as they build out new factories, modernize with smart technologies, and look to improve uptime across the board.

  • Industrial UPS: This isn’t new, but the technology has evolved to provide clean reliable power with better management and protection. Today’s UPS solutions include surge protection, clean power delivery, battery monitoring, and integration with management systems, making it easier for the organization to keep the status of all batteries or proactively address at-risk UPS units before an event occurs. 

    The battery technology is also changing. Most UPS units sold are acid-based batteries, but we see the adoption of lithium-based batteries as costs and availability improve. As a result, lithium batteries are set to make up 40% of the market in the coming years, delivering better UPS capabilities such as fewer or no battery replacements, 3x less weight, 10x more discharge cycles, and 4x faster charging. 

    We should also be mindful that UPS units scale with the use case. Solutions come in all shapes and sizes, from small form factors to protect a single machine, factory or line protection systems, data center, or entire site power backup solutions. 
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE): While it doesn’t solve all power applications, another area of power management to consider is power over ethernet (PoE). With IEEE 802.af or IEEE 802.at, PoE and POE+ allow us to deliver clean reliable power directly from existing network cables. Imagine, instead of requiring an electrician to pull permits and wiring to that new industrial monitor or sensor in the ceiling, you just run the same ethernet cable you planned to from your PoE-powered switch to the smart device. Now your unit is powered, connected to the network, and your smart devices are ready to go.

    With the IEEE 802.af/AT standards, you get DC Power up to 15W and 30W per port, or with UPOE or UPOE+ you can get up to 60W or 90W of DC power per port, respectively. With a surge of POE-compatible devices, we are observing many manufacturers deploying this cost-effective and flexible technology to deliver network and power to end-user terminals, wireless access points, industrial devices, touch screens, VOIP phones, cameras, sensors, and lighting, digital signage, and so much more. 

    The next time the factory floor layout changes, the production engineering team can connect network cables without running any new electrical simplifying and speeding up change events. The next time your IT professionals discuss investing in upgrading networks, take this event seriously and partner with IT to get smarter networks with PoE as part of the architecture.
  • Mobile Smart Devices: As our process equipment and unattended smart technologies transform, so do the devices employees use each day. This includes tablets, scanners, smart devices, and wearables. While each of these products typically comes with power charging, many other solutions are available, making it easier and more reliable to power these units. Whether your organization is looking to provide smart power lockers to protect, charge, and make it easier for employees to get a device, or to offer next-generation wireless charging solutions, power docking, and more. Keep an eye on how smart devices are rapidly changing how they charge intelligently and fit the type of culture, environment, or demanding requirements of your staff.
  • Managed Power Services: With so much workload placed on industrial and IT teams, we observe a rise in augmentation of existing teams with managed power services. With newer power solutions, these smarter power devices are capable of integrating with corporate monitoring platforms to support monitoring from the center. They can also allow for managed power services that enable power as a service offerings. These services integrate all power technologies and provide real-time battery monitoring, alert management, and on-site services when necessary. Such augmentation unlocks your team to focus on more critical business initiatives while outsourcing and delivering improved power reliability.

With 85% of manufacturing CEOs expecting smart factory or industrial internet of things (IIoT) technology investments as key to their future business success, we know manufacturers are investing in industrial transformation (IX). However, manufacturers must not forget about foundational infrastructure to ensure the resiliency and dependabilities required to keep our intelligent factories operational. 

To learn more about Connection’s Manufacturing Practice or to discuss the challenges and power  solutions highlighted in this article, contact us today.

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Remote Patient Monitoring Creates Healthier...https://community.connection.com/remote-patient-monitoring-creates-healthier-patients-happier-providers/ Jun 08, 2021 Dr Keith Nelson https://community.connection.com/author/dr-keith-nelson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1350898-Remote-Patient-Monitoring-BLOG.jpg As telemedicine became mainstreamed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of remotely monitoring patients has concomitantly been elevated in terms of both importance and use. The applications here are numerous, but currently primarily concentrate on post-hospital-discharge of high- risk patients and chronic disease management. The former is largely employed to prevent hospital readmissions by identifying emerging complications early when they can be easily addressed. The latter is similarly directed toward keeping patients healthy, but on a longer-term basis through frequent monitoring of their health status, customized treatment protocols, and frequent communication/intervention. 

Examples of prevalent chronic diseases whose course could be improved through the use of a monitoring program include:

  • Asthma
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity

Typical remote physiologic measurements today come from home-based devices measuring blood pressure, blood glucose, blood oxygen content, weight, respiration flow, and medication adherence, all of which communicate their data (through either Bluetooth/Wi-Fi or cellular transmission) to an Internet- or cloud-based platform that is monitored by a medical provider, and increasingly intermediated by artificial intelligence. But given the success and future potential of remote patient monitoring (RPM), innovation is advancing at an impressive rate. Newly introduced technologies include wall-mounted non-contact measurements of respiration, heart rate, and activity/movement using ultra-wideband radar, leveraging smartphone cameras to measure blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and circulation via light reflectivity and a 12-lead electrode T-shirt that produces a medical-grade EKG. And looking forward, it is not outlandish to expect technologies such as affordable home-based CRISPR blood tests to diagnose cancers or a myriad of other specific diseases, smartphone-generated MRI-quality medical imaging using near-infrared light, or clinical decision support software that will perform functions like interpreting an EKG or stethoscope sounds for the patient.

So Who Pays for This Stuff?

There are currently two primary financial models for the deployment of an RPM program: purchase or lease. The cost of the equipment and services is borne by the provider; however, these expenses are most often reimbursable through insurance. In January of 2021, CMS released new guidelines regarding RPM reimbursement. The payment schedule (below) forms a foundation that could, create a significant profit center for providers (monthly recurring revenue). This is in addition to mitigating or eliminating the 2% CMS penalty for excessive hospital readmissions.

CPT Code 99453 (Setup)
Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial setup and patient education on use of equipment.
One time setup/education of $21 (regionally adjusted).

CPT Code 99454 (Equipment and Monitoring)
Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial device(s) supply with daily recording(s) or programmed alert(s) transmission, each 30 days.
$69 per patient/month (regionally adjusted)

CPT Code 99457 (Interventions)
Remote physiologic monitoring treatment management services, 20 minutes or more of clinical staff/physician/other qualified healthcare professional time in a calendar month requiring interactive communication with the patient/caregiver during the month.
$54 per patient/month (regionally adjusted)

CPT Code 99458 (Interventions)
Remote physiologic monitoring treatment management services for each additional 20 min.
($43)

The Bottom Line

Remote patient monitoring leads to improved disease management and lower hospital readmissions, resulting in healthier patients, reduced costs to the provider, and the establishment of a new provider profit center. I’d call that a win-win-win.

If you want to know more about remote patient monitoring and how it can help your healthcare organization, reach out to Connection today.

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Visibility, Device Protection, and Online...https://community.connection.com/visibility-device-protection-and-online-safety-for-students/ Jun 04, 2021 Delia DeCourcy https://community.connection.com/author/delia-decourcy/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1341971-Lenovo-k12-PSG-BLOG.png According to a Hanover Research report, 30 devices went missing on average at each school between January and September 2020 as students and teachers took devices home for distance learning in response to COVID-19. What’s more, thirty-six percent of school-issued devices were dark from August to October 2020, meaning they hadn’t connected online, anywhere, during that time.

“Device drift” is when schools lose track of computers and tablets that they have issued for remote learning. If you’re dealing with device drift, you’re not alone—41% percent of schools reported feeling challenged tracking devices in the Hanover Research report, “Distance Learning’s Impact on Education IT.

Visibility: You Can’t Secure What You Can’t Manage, and You Can’t Manage What They Can’t See

Education continuity means creating a seamless learning experience regardless of where students are learning. Persistent visibilitywhich means always-on insight into where devices are and what they are doing—is key to managing and securing your devices for long life and ensuring students and teachers have the tools they need to learn, no matter where they are.

The question is, how do you create that visibility into devices that are off premises, that you can’t touch and manually update or secure? How can you discover where a device is, take action on missing devices, and improve your recovery rate?

The solution is Absolute Persistence® embedded into the firmware of Lenovo devices. Absolute gives you unparalleled line-of-sight to your devices and data. Secure your data, devices, and applications with an unbreakable connection to every endpoint—on or off your network.

Beyond giving you visibility into devices, Absolute can even protect other essential applications by helping them self-heal. That’s why Absolute is an integral part of ThinkShield, Lenovo’s comprehensive end-to-end security platform. Lenovo and Absolute’s partnership supports schools engaged in digital transformation. 

It begins on the factory floor, when Lenovo embeds Absolute into devices’ firmware to create an unbreakable link that gives security professionals device control through endpoint visibility and geolocation, geofencing, and device freeze, even off school networks. By seeing every endpoint and the apps and data on it, you know which blind spots to fix, know what needs to be done to meet and report on data and privacy compliance, and have the data to make better decisions. 

Increase Your Odds of Reclaiming Your Dark Device

When it’s time to reclaim a device, the digital tether tells you where that device is, and if it hasn’t logged on, there are log reports to reference last known locations. You can use Absolute to freeze and send a message to student devices with a friendly nudge to remind them to return the device. Or, if they aren’t responsive, you can lock the device remotely so it isn’t of use to the student (or anyone, for that matter).

Device Protection: How to Be the Superhero Who Protects Your Schools from Cyberattacks

The global education sector has seen a 20% increase in cyberattacks as criminals exploit newly implemented virtual learning environments. Threats range from nuisance adware to severe malware like trojans and backdoors, but the most common, by far, is ransomware. The education sector was the most affected by ransomware of all business sectors in 2018 and ’19, according to a report from Malwarebytes Labs. 

Schools have become enticing targets for attackers because of stored personal information on students and teachers, and security updates often aren’t installed on devices that have been loaned out for remote learning. Furthermore, students and teachers are frequent victims of phishing scams. They typically use simple passwords across multiple services, making them susceptible to credential harvesting and password-spraying attacks. When hackers infiltrate your devices, they lock them up so they can’t be used for learning. Suddenly, the capacity to simply teach students is lost.

Like a superhero who fights off the bad guy before the villain has a chance to steal the money, SentinelOne can defeat intruders before they hijack your devices. SentinelOne enables your school to automatically detect and manage devices as they join your network and extends protection and control to cloud-based assets and applications running on them. Lenovo pre-enables SentinelOne on all laptops, desktops, and Chromebooks, so that you can ensure a seamless and engaging experience for students, whether they’re learning face-to-face or remotely.

SentinelOne is the only cybersecurity solution encompassing AI-powered prevention, detection, response, and hunting across endpoints and cloud workloads in a single autonomous platform. It gives your IT team full transparency into everything happening across the network at machine speed so that you can defeat every attack at every stage of the threat lifecycle.

By autonomously detecting and responding to attacks, SentinelOne helps mitigate limited human resources. This helps focus the attention of your busy IT team on the most severe and impactful security issues. If an attacker successfully infiltrates a device, SentinelOne can rollback the device to a healthy state, including decrypting encrypted files. 

Online Safety

Your school is charged with taking care of the whole student, not just shoving information into their head. So, you likely want to know when (not if) your students are engaging in inappropriate behavior or looking at a site with inappropriate content. 

But how can your teachers and administrators know what’s going on in a student’s head—especially in a remote learning situation? How can you supervise collaborative and online communications? How can you protect students from inappropriate or illicit online content at home or school?

With an increasingly encrypted Web, it’s trickier to get the information you need to protect students. Getting search term reports, creating selective access to Google services, and tapping into YouTube controls all require SSL decryption. But more than 60% of school IT personnel say they aren’t decrypting SSL at all. Completely blocking YouTube and social media is always an option, but those platforms can often be used for learning in today’s (in-person and remote) classrooms. That’s why 40% of schools allow YouTube access for everyone.

Even when schools use filtering on their devices and networks, that filtering usually has limitations. They typically only block about half of the graphic content on the Web. They often send too much noise—and too many false alerts—when trying to analyze websites in real time. And often, schools have to rely on separate filtering solutions for when devices are on campus or off, which adds complexities to the process.

Why paint this gloomy picture? Because we know how you can get help to erase that picture and replace it with one where students are safe and you have the knowledge to help them stay that way. 

Lenovo is committed to helping schools through this digital transformation that is required for educational continuity. That’s why they’re partnering with Lightspeed to provide schools worldwide with an ecosystem of cloud-based solutions with reliable filtering, analytics, and device management tools. This includes advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor, interpret, and flag warning signs in emails, Google docs, social media posts, Web searches, Microsoft Teams and Meetings chat—really, nearly everywhere students are interacting online.

Your IT team can use Lightspeed’s AI to automatically block millions of inappropriate, harmful, and unknown sites, images, and videos. Its SmartPlay’s patented agents and mature database effectively block millions of inappropriate videos, thumbnails, and “recommended by” YouTube content so that YouTube can be a safe teaching tool. Customizable policy controls enable admins to set parameters and selectively permit content without being overly restrictive.What would you discover—and prevent—with Absolute, SentinelOne, or Lightspeed on your Lenovo devices? Now may be the time to find out. Read more about Lenovo’s best-in-class solution suite in the Solutions for Education Catalog.

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How Modern Fleet Solutions Improve First...https://community.connection.com/modern-fleet-solutions-improve-first-responders-serve-their-communities/ Jun 03, 2021 Steve Zitney https://community.connection.com/author/steve-zitney/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1344539-Modern-Fleet-Solutions-BLOG.jpg Over the course of the last 100 years, the way our first responders answer their respective communities’ calls for service (CFS) has vastly changed as technology in this landscape has progressed. Perhaps the most notable change is the way in which first responders travel to engage with the citizens in distress. Patrol vehicles, fire apparatuses, and ambulances, specifically, have undergone a series of dramatic changes that have vastly improved response times and effectiveness.

When computers first made their debut in the early 1930s, no one ever suspected that technology could be condensed into a clamshell device that could be mounted in a patrol vehicle. But that’s exactly what the majority of mobile data terminals (MDT) utilized by first responders are. Imagine what a difference these sophisticated devices could have made for first responders back then. 

Now, when answering a call for aid, a law enforcement officer or fire crew has a GPS device deliver the most efficient route directly to a specific address—shaving off precious minutes that could make all the difference in a critical scenario. Perhaps even more importantly, with an MDT, dispatchers can provide updated call information while the first responders are en-route. Not only can they relay verbal information, but they can also send pictures of persons of interest and records from surrounding jurisdictions via a collective records management platform. 

Law enforcement, in particular, has seen MDTs have a significant impact in the way they perform daily duties and move through the community. They can use MDTs to write up reports while they’re patrolling their assigned areas—instead of having to wait until they return to the office to hand write and submit their reports. Now they can submit incident reporting directly to the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) directly from their patrol vehicle. In cases of traffic stops, they can scan a driver’s license, import that information into a mobile citation, and issue a printed ticket to a violator all in mere minutes. These technologies keep officers available in their patrol areas, which has been proven to deter crime in areas where it was previously prevalent. 

MDTs have also made a difference in how efficiently firefighters and EMS teams can respond to community calls for aid. They can easily document their efforts while administering aid, and they can also use translation services to overcome language barriers and ensure community members receive the proper care.For communities looking for new, innovative ways to better serve and protect their people, outfitting their first responders with modern MDTs, as well as a durable wireless router and antenna, is a great first step. Give your first responders the tools they need today—our experts work with all levels of state and local government to create efficient, cost effective solutions. Contact us to learn more. 

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Microsoft Viva Delivers a Better Way to...https://community.connection.com/microsoft-viva/ Jun 01, 2021 Sreeraj Vasukuttan https://community.connection.com/author/sreeraj-vasukuttan/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1338689-Blog-Microsoft-Viva-BLOG.jpg On February 4, 2021, Microsoft announced Microsoft Viva, their new employee experience platform. The announcement created a buzz in the Microsoft sphere of the Internet for a couple of weeks, but then slowly faded away. In the first week, our customers were asking, “What is this Viva thing that Microsoft just announced? Is it a new product from Microsoft?” It took a while for me to wrap my head around Viva, but at last, I found the answer. Viva is not necessarily a new product line from Microsoft. Instead, it’s how Microsoft has branded a set of new and repackaged employee experiences built within Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

Why does Microsoft need to call out employee experiences and create a dedicated platform for them? There are products within Microsoft Teams and Office 365 that are geared towards employee experiences. I think, by being a facilitator for 2020’s remote work transition with Teams, Microsoft has been watching and analyzing new employee experience patterns. Also, they have been conducting studies of remote work to predict better where things are going in that area. All the significant studies published recently—not just the ones published by Microsoft—about remote work point to one interesting conclusion:

Employers and employees think that remote work has accelerated productivity, and fewer employees want to go back to the office full time; however, the sense of disconnect, digital fatigue, and burnout has increased among employees.

Therefore, helping companies reinvent employee experiences in a hybrid work world has become essential for Microsoft. I don’t believe that Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Viva alone will solve all these challenges at once. But building apps and services around Teams with the employee experience framework is an effort in the right direction from Microsoft. 

Employee Experience and Return to Office Plans

As you build your return to office plan for 2021 and beyond, you must consider both the physical and the digital worlds where your employees inhabit. The HR department must ask questions like, “How I can make my employees’ digital lives more meaningful? What do they need more (or less) of in their forty-plus hours of staring at a screen each week? What is at stake if I don’t take a proactive step towards building a better digital world for my employees?” Then work with the leadership teams to invest in modern collaboration platforms, apps, and devices that will provide better employee experiences. 

Microsoft Viva is one piece of the puzzle. If you are already on Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, bringing Viva to your employees is not that complicated. For example, Viva Connections—one of the modules in Viva—is free, and your IT staff could roll it out with few changes to your SharePoint Online settings.

Microsoft Viva: Description of Modules, Pricing, and Availability 
Microsoft Viva is comprised of four modules: Viva Topics, Viva Connections, Viva Insights, and Viva Learning. 

  • Viva Topics will collect and organize the knowledge around any topic in your organization’s Microsoft 365 environment using Microsoft Graph and AI. Viva Topics is generally available now. The price is $5 per user, per month. 
  • Viva Connections will work as a SharePoint app within Teams. You can use Viva Connections in Teams to bring curated news and articles to your employees. Viva Connections will also bring content from Yammer and Microsoft Stream. Viva Connections is now generally available, and you can start using the module at no cost if your users are licensed for Microsoft 365 and SharePoint.
  • Viva Insights will work as the workplace productivity and wellbeing portal for your Teams users. Viva Insights will be tied to MyAnalytics and Workplace analytics in Microsoft 365. Headspace integration and Virtual Commute that Microsoft announced last year for Teams are also going to be included in Viva Insights. The Insights app is now available in Teams with minimum features. More features will be available later this year. The Insights app in Teams is free, but additional features like MyAnalytics and Workplace analytics might require an additional license. 
  • Viva Learning is the enterprise-grade learning management solution in Teams. The app will bring Microsoft’s own learning apps like Microsoft Learn, LinkedIn Learning, and third-party learning apps to Teams. The Learning app in Teams will be available at no cost, but you will have to pay for subscriptions within the app. Viva Learning is currently in private preview and will be generally available later this year. 

If you don’t have in-house expertise in deploying services like Microsoft Viva or understanding the licensing nuances of it, you can reach out to our Modern Work and Security Services team. We’ll be happy to get you started.

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How Edge Compute Is Redefining Automation in...https://community.connection.com/how-edge-compute-is-redefining-automation-in-manufacturing/ May 27, 2021 Ryan Spurr https://community.connection.com/author/ryan-spurr/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1330121-Edge-Compute-BLOG.jpg In manufacturing, edge computing is not new. Factories have long had compute solutions in the plant, including programmable logic controllers (PLCs), local plant micro data centers or servers, and extensive use of traditional computers for kiosks, process equipment, signage, and workbenches. Because of what manufacturing has long done, edge computing is something we are all very comfortable with.

What has changed is adopting new industry standards, integrating the operational technology environment with information technology or the balance of the enterprise, and adopting Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence. Among manufacturing leaders, 91% are planning to invest in creating digital factories (or smarter factories than they have today). Driven by this shift, 80% of manufacturing data will be computed at the center of business processes1 (what we call the “edge”) vs. on-premises data centers or cloud. 

This shift doesn’t replace the need for data centers or cloud infrastructure. Instead, it only implies that a new generation of technology will allow manufacturers to conduct intelligent operations inclusive of automation and decision-making at the point closest to where people and machines operate. In fact, 76% of manufacturers seek to integrate communications, infrastructure, and process between OT and IT. With the decisions processed at the edge, we empower the plant to be more resilient and independent while offsetting unnecessary network traffic and costs associated with transporting to and from data centers. It also creates a more scalable architecture that addresses operations and information technology needs and enables a new approach to innovation by lines of business.

Let’s examine ways the modern concept of edge computing is transforming in the market:

  1. Edge Compute Is Everywhere: I must point out nearly everything in the marketplace is being equipped with some form of computing technology, whether on the low or high end. If you take away nothing else from this article, understand this. Everything from cameras, sensors, tags, networks, appliances, scanners, and screens is becoming intelligent. I expect at some point very shortly, everything we buy and place into our factories will be capable of connecting to networks or cellular services, processing data, and interacting with employees and other devices in the environment.
  2. Next-Generation Edge Compute: As discussed earlier, computers for end users or factory equipment are not new. What is new is the proliferation of edge compute devices designed specifically for industrial environments and intended to replace the traditionally used personal computers or services sourced by IT or engineers. While all manufacturers share many things in common, most have unique environmental, process, regulatory, and safety requirements. For example, in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry, we must employ good manufacturing practices (GMP), or in the food and beverage industries, we must adhere to food and drug standards. In either case, we are talking about challenges associated with chemicals, biohazards, sanitization, and the potential for explosion. 

    The next-generation edge compute devices address these industry-specific regulations or standards by providing devices that are both safe, and fit for purpose. For example, this allows plants to prevent sparks from causing explosions or fires, protect from liquids or harsh sanitization chemicals, and fanless and sealed units to eliminate issues with dust or particulates from the manufacturing process. 
  3. Industrial Touch Terminals, Kiosks, and Digital Signage: Not every use case requires a dedicated terminal for frontline workers. We now see rapid adoption of next-generation shared devices in the form of shared kiosks, industrial terminals used with process and test equipment, and digital signage. Historically, each device would require another computer or device to operate. Today, most of these solutions integrate edge compute within the interactive touch screens, allowing for a more intuitive and productive experience for frontline workers. Other benefits include simplifying deployment or ensuring units are suited to endure the harshest or riskiest of environments.
  4. Networking Edge Compute: The notion of what is intelligent and can house compute capabilities has also changed. No longer is compute reserved for end-user devices. Instead, we are also seeing edge compute embedded within network and security appliances. This allows for trusted corporate and industrial networks to both securely route packets and provide computing capability anywhere along the network from edge to data center.
  5. Edge Data Center: It’s also important to point out that there is no one-size-fits-all in manufacturing. It’s not like there are only edge devices, and then on the other side of the line, there is a data center or cloud infrastructure. In manufacturing, we require a more complex, scalable, or resilient structure. As such, you can now procure a wide range of data center products built for industrial spaces. These products are robust and range from basic servers to high-end compute solutions with powerful processors and graphics capabilities designed to withstand the harshest of environments.
  6. Embedded Components: Industry 4.0 isn’t just taking place in our factories or warehouses. Manufacturers are now creating more intelligent products, serviceable or returnable containers, and new managed services that require compute solutions anywhere outside the traditional four walls. Depending on the product, this might include a next-generation edge compute device discussed earlier or leverage components embedded into the design of their products. In addition, many OEMs offer unique embedded technologies like chips, memory, touchscreens, sensors, and communication modules for connectivity, making this next step to innovative products easier.
  7. Software, VMs, and Containers: Lastly, we cannot close on the topic of edge computing without mentioning virtual machines and containers. In addition to edge compute hardware itself, many of these devices are poised to support custom software, virtual machines, and containers in new ways. As a result, DEVOPS teams have more options in designing, deploying, and managing software and data at the edge and across the entirety of their tech estate.


With 2.1 million manufacturing jobs going unfilled through 2030, we know manufacturers are looking for new ways to streamline and automate business processes for the better. Combining sensors, modern networks, and edge compute, the industry is already leveraging or accelerating the industrial transformation (IX). With a diverse range of edge computing offerings, manufacturers can now tackle any number of process improvement initiatives that fuel automation to improve quality, drive throughput, and reduce costs while also combatting potential shortcomings with lack of talent. To learn more about Connection’s Manufacturing Practice or to discuss the challenges and edge compute solutions highlighted in this article, contact us today.

1 IDC Worldwide Predictions for Manufacturing 2019

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How to Optimize Your Patient-facing Apphttps://community.connection.com/how-to-optimize-your-patient-facing-app/ May 25, 2021 Dr Keith Nelson https://community.connection.com/author/dr-keith-nelson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1319432-Opitmize-Patient-App-BLOG.jpg These days, every hospital and medical provider group has a proprietary app, the purpose of which is to improve the patient experience and, presumably, increase operational efficiency and productivity for providers. Speaking to the former, in today’s highly competitive, value-based healthcare environment, improving patient satisfaction and engagement has become a top priority for medical providers. And the patient-facing app (Digital Front Door) is one of the most powerful tools employed to achieve this goal.

Accenture estimates that the three app functions most desired by patients are appointment scheduling, prescription refills, and some access to medical records/test results. This is considered the bare minimum needed to drive patient app engagement. However, most hospitals increasingly have been adding other beneficial features to improve the user experience and empower patients by enabling them to take greater control of their healthcare journey.

Who’s Developing Your App?

As far as app development is concerned, the largest organizations typically either develop entirely internally, or team their in-house resources with a subcontracted app development firm—which may or may not have specific healthcare subject matter expertise. Medium-sized and smaller organizations usually outsource the majority of the development work or leverage the patient experience modules associated with their Electronic Health Record software (e.g., Epic MyChart, Cerner CareAware), which tend to be relatively limited in scope, less user-friendly, and less engaging. Generally speaking, the majority of hospitals have either not yet endeavored into the realm of enhanced app development, or have developed relatively limited, often non-compelling offerings. As a healthcare provider, it is important to develop a strategy that will best serve your organization and maximize the app’s impact on your patient population.  

Add the Right Features

Of course, as previously mentioned, the other primary purpose of an app is to improve the efficiency, productivity, and branding of your organization. You can leverage the app to promote your services, differentiated assets, and accomplishments; reduce the workload of your staff; streamline the registration and post-discharge processes; and receive patient feedback, in addition to many other things.

Examples of advanced app features include:

  • Welcome Message (leveraging geo fencing)
  • Entertainment (cable TV, streaming services)
  • Wayfinding
  • Physician Contact Numbers/Email/Texting
  • Customized Education/Videos
  • Pre- and Post-Appointment and Discharge Instructions
  • Appointments (scheduling/reminders/calendar)
  • Test Results
  • Medical Records
  • Nurse Call
  • Dietary Ordering
  • Support Groups
  • Patient Registration
  • Telemedicine
  • Integration with Home Monitoring Equipment and Smart Watches
  • Gift Shop (for visitors/family)
  • Prescription Refills
  • Medication Tracking
  • Retail Supplies (disposables, DME, OTC)
  • Parking (location, directions, and payment)
  • Patient Tracking (for authorized relatives)
  • Patient Feedback/Surveys
  • Restaurants/Food Delivery
  • Uber/Lyft

In planning a comprehensive app development strategy, it is important to incorporate infrastructure considerations that will support the current and future features you plan to make available. These can range from designing an optimized network and access points and beacons (wayfinding, geofencing, Wi-Fi access) to EHR/ERP integration, security, and seamless performance continuity after EHR and OS updates.

Outsourcing App Development

Connection can reduce the burden on your IT staff by teaming you with the market leader in healthcare app development. Leveraging our partner’s depth of experience and Connection’s unparalleled infrastructure support in networking and security, your organization can optimize your proprietary patient-facing app platform by letting you choose from a suite of customizable off-the-shelf app modules or designing customized features developed from scratch. The result will be a unique digital front door that will elevate patient satisfaction, increase productivity and reduce the workload of your staff, all without stressing your internal IT team.  Ready to learn more? Contact us today.

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How to Navigate a Global Chip Shortagehttps://community.connection.com/how-to-navigate-a-global-chip-shortage/ May 21, 2021 Connection https://community.connection.com/author/connection/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1336622-Global-Chip-Shortage-BLOG2.jpg Whether they are following headlines about chip and technology shortages or have encountered long waits for specific items, consumers and business buyers alike are increasingly becoming aware that supply chain issues may be impacting technology availability. The New York Times recently reported that a global chip shortage has hampered automobile production, while Statista notes that brands (including Apple) faced shortages that led to production delays. If you’re interested in learning more about the global chip shortage—and how to create a strategy that optimizes your technology access—read on.

What’s Driving the Semiconductor or Chip Shortage

It can be helpful to take a step back and ask what is driving the semiconductor or chip shortage. CBS News recently reported that 75% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured in Asia. Some of the challenges have been traced back to COVID and, in particular, how this year-long period has highlighted some of the fragility of the global supply chain. However, the shortages we’re currently seeing are impacted by a wide variety of factors:

The core issue is a raw material shortage.When you think about what devices use a chip, your first thought may be your desktop computer or laptop. However, we live in a world where devices are increasingly being made smart. It’s not just the CPUs and GPUs that go into your computing equipment; it’s every smart home device, every networked computer, every automobile with computing features. All these devices rely on the same core underlying infrastructure and raw materials. Raw materials shortages have become an increasing problem as chip usage reaches an all-time high.

Long lead times make the issues harder to address.
Ordering components for a PC begins a long time before that device is manufactured; in some cases, months or even a year or more. Complex supply chains have many moving parts, and companies are managing relationships that span multiple companies, geographic regions, and much more. A number of companies have announced plans for plants to manufacture chips in the United States. While companies have invested in the capacity to help reduce the impact, it’s important to remember that because of these long lead times, these changes may not alleviate short-term challenges.

There’s been a wide brand impact.
The challenges go beyond the name brands American consumers are familiar with. Globally, these shortages are impacting nearly all brands that rely on these items.

Chip shortages affect more than just PCs.
Outside of integrated circuits, these shortages are having an impact on a wide range of devices, including audio, Wi-Fi chips, imaging devices, and displays. Many industries compete for these materials, not just PC manufacturers. For example, auto manufacturers have had to limit production due to a lack of raw materials. We are also seeing impacts to printer and PC accessories availability. All these devices use the same raw materials and will be challenged with availability.

Companies are exacerbating the situation by stockpiling chips.
It was recently reported by CNBC that some companies—for example, those in China that have been hit with sanctions—are stockpiling chips to ride out the shortage. Across supply chains, these types of actions can further compound shortages and make it difficult for manufacturers to get the supplies they need.

What Are the Consequences of Chip Shortages?

While industries have been dialed into this issue for some time and focused on solving the problem, it’s important to consider how the situation may impact you as a buyer. As outlined above, national, global, industry, and company initiatives to correct for these challenges will take some time to fix.

When you’re purchasing technology and equipment for your business, you may experience:

  • Longer wait times to have orders fulfilled and shipped
  • Specific brand or device shortages that require you to choose an alternate brand or model
  • An increase in prices that can be passed on to buyers

There’s absolutely no need to panic. Government and private sector conversations are happening on how to address and alleviate the chip shortage. However, some experts suggest the impact may carry into 2022. As an informed business buyer, looking ahead and having the right strategy can help ensure you have access to the technology you need and the ability to minimize any inconvenience to your business.

What Steps Can You Take to Mitigate the Impact of Chip Shortages?

Connection recommends several proactive steps you can take today to help minimize the impact, alleviate challenges, and manage expectations.

Plan Ahead
The number-one strategy buyers can use to limit the impact of a chip shortage is to plan ahead. If you anticipate needing technology at any point in the next 6 to 12 months, consider ordering it now while it’s available—or so you’re at the front of the line as companies work through their production backlog. Ordering products before they’re urgently needed will allow you to get the technology you need without having to compromise or troubleshoot around a long-term delay. For many companies and individual consumers, this is a different approach to our “just in time” technology buying habits. Take time to assess whether you need to acquire new technology as part of your ongoing hardware lifecycle management, to support projected growth, or to have inventory on hand to replace non-functioning equipment.

Expect Some Delays
Even if you place an order now, fulfillment times may be longer than expected. Where possible, plan for delays. Not every order is going to be one you can plan ahead for. Someone with a damaged or stolen laptop, for example, may need an immediate solution. Communicate with your vendor to understand timelines, and set expectations with your users accordingly. By knowing your place in line, opening communications, and checking ongoing status, you’ll have the latest information on hand. Where possible, practice and counsel patience.

Flexibility Is Key
As a company or individual buyer, you may have a preference for which brand or model of technology you’re purchasing. However, if you’re willing to be flexible you may be able to solve the problem. Imagine onboarding a new employee: If the brand of laptop you always buy is on backorder, you may be able to obtain a device today that can enable them to be productive. It might not be the exact model, brand, or device you’re used to using, but that employee can be productive using it for the short-term.

Evaluate Virtual Solutions 
Hardware isn’t always the only option. For example, virtual desktop infrastructure can be used to give your users a PC-like experience on a different device, such as their tablet or mobile phone.

Chip shortages are impacting industries around the globe, and technology buyers may see some impact over the next several months. But don’t despair. By being proactive, flexible, and strategically thinking ahead, it’s possible to mitigate the shortage’s effect on your business and have the technology on hand to keep your employees connected, productive, and moving forward. Connection can help you create a plan to meet your needs. We will guide you through the shortages and find a strategy that works for you and your business. Reach out to Connection today to get started.

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Telemedicine After the Pandemichttps://community.connection.com/telemedicine-after-the-pandemic/ May 20, 2021 Dr Keith Nelson https://community.connection.com/author/dr-keith-nelson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1319271-Telemedicine-After-Pandemic-BLOG-1.jpg COVID-19 has forced a myriad of changes to healthcare delivery, but none more compelling than the mainstreaming of telemedicine. Initially, the urgent necessity of connecting patients to providers without potentially exposing either party to the spreading virus drove a swift band-aid adoption of remote communication technology. Not surprisingly, challenges resulting from this rapid deployment quickly surfaced in the form of compromised security, transmission glitches, a utilization learning curve, limited hardware availability and a cumbersome user experience, among other difficulties. It was a classic “learn as you go” scenario. 

In order to facilitate global telemedicine implementation, the government relaxed a number of category-killer restrictions that had been in place prior to the pandemic—most notably interstate treatment barriers and HIPAA data privacy oversight—as well as instituting payment parity with in-person visits. The end result was a broad adoption of the technology across all age groups, including the historically technology-challenged senior population. So, now with the emergency abating, the question is—where do we go from here?

It is now evident that telemedicine has become wildly popular with both patients and providers and has ushered in a new era of convenience and increased productivity. Initial concerns about overutilization and fraud have not materialized to any significant degree to date, and the technology shift has fostered new innovations that are improving patient outcomes. These are powerful arguments for continuing and expanding the use of telehealth services. 

It remains to be seen if the market forces will result in long-term legislative and reimbursement changes to the system once the current period of regulatory relaxation and financial incentives expires. Although the jury is still out on this, most experts believe that the genie is out of the bottle. Accordingly, medical providers need to be thinking about building a long-term telemedicine strategy that replaces the reactionary band-aid solution(s) currently in place. In so doing, it is important to design a system that allows for flexibility to accommodate future growth, innovation, and utility. To this end, let’s examine some of the current and emerging uses and benefits of telemedicine:

• Decreased Infection Exposure: This holds true for the current pandemic, future outbreaks, and the seasonal flu. It reduces the petri dish scenario in hospitals and medical offices, as well as public forums such as mass transit environments.

• Improved Patient Scheduling and Throughput: Typically, more patients can be seen in a given period of time leveraging this technology, and patient no-shows are both minimized and less disruptive when they occur. Further, patient wait times are markedly decreased (reducing backups), and providers can optimize their time by consulting from any location (including when they are in transit). Lastly, whenever physical visits are needed, patients can be directed to the appropriate provider, as opposed to having them choose the emergency room, which is a money drain for the hospital.

• Better Capacity Management: A decrease in physical visits means less office space and resources needed.

• Improved Chronic Disease Management: Remote patient monitoring of vital signs, glucose levels, weight, etc. enables providers to preempt emerging health problems for chronically ill patients. The number and expanded utility of tech innovations that provide at-home diagnostics are rapidly accelerating—and we’ll be discussing them here in a future post.

• Critical Care Management (eICU): Feeding patient telemetry and video into the inter/intranet allows for a central monitoring process, which in turn yields greater efficiency and the ability to redeploy staff. The most compelling use cases are related to critical care and stroke patients.

• Integration and Analytics of Patient Fitness Data: Access to patient fitness data from a smart watch or smartphone enables a retrospective view of heart rate, BP, and sleep patterns, which lends valuable historical insight leading up to a medical event.

• Improved Provider Collaboration: Multiparty video connectivity, shared white boards, real-time data exchange, and mobile access enhance the provider collaborative experience. Further, the technology breaks down geographic barriers and time zone differences through the integration of efficient scheduling and language translation options.

• Inexpensive Geographic Expansion: Telemedicine enables multifactorial interaction between provider and patient, ranging from simple video visits to providing satellite office care through the use of diagnostic equipment and a nurse or PA at the remote site. Consequently, a hospital could penetrate new service areas without the costs of building a new facility. As the technology curve advances, one could imagine robotic surgical procedures being performed remotely by a top surgeon, with support personnel situated locally. Another compelling efficiency is the ability to conduct remote second opinions for cancer, saving the patient the trouble and expense of scheduling and travel to a far-off facility.

A well-planned telemedicine solution should have the flexibility to accommodate the above use cases, and have a stable, efficient, secure, and user-friendly platform that is integrated with the institution’s EHR system. Other important considerations are the ability to seamlessly integrate diagnostic and remote monitoring equipment, process credit card payments, provide scheduling capability, offer virtual waiting rooms, verify insurance coverage, provide store-and-forward capability, and enable language-translation integration. Certainly, there’s a lot to think about, but as history has consistently shown, good fortune always favors the well-prepared.

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Lenovo Helps Bring Student Engagement to...https://community.connection.com/lenovo-helps-bring-student-engagement-to-life-in-and-out-of-the-classroom/ May 18, 2021 Delia DeCourcy https://community.connection.com/author/delia-decourcy/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1332579-Lenovo-K12-BLOG.jpg As the digital transformation of our schools continues to take form, there’s an increased need to ensure that educators are given the tools they need to keep students engaged—whether learning is taking place remotely or in the classroom. Lenovo Education’s robust instructional software suite provides just that: a suite of products that teachers can use to ensure learning is seamless. From digital curriculum that meets state standards through our partnership with Exploros, to WeVideo and Book Creator—two creativity apps built for Chromebooks—this software utilizes technology in a new way to unlock students’ imagination and create lifelong learners. 

Keep Curriculum Intact and Aligned to Standards, Regardless of Where Learning Takes Place

Right now, teachers need a solution that brings subject matter expertise and engagement strategies to life, both face-to-face and remotely. Teachers need an approach that:

  • Works in synchronous or asynchronous learning models
  • Preserves the ability to guide learning, yet enhances the ways in which students can engage socially and emotionally
  • Provides proven, pedagogically sound content that aligns with school- or district-wide curriculum goals, as well as state and national standards
  • Increases digital equity by being accessible and meaningful to students of all demographics, regardless of special learning requirements or needs
  • Produces real-time data for insights into attendance, progress, and learning-standards achievement
  • Integrates with existing frameworks and platforms, including Google Education Suite, Canvas, and other ecosystems

In short, teachers need to be enabled to focus on the art of teaching, not just content orchestration. Exploros brings all of these essentials together, saving teachers’ time and increasing student engagement and academic success. 

Exploros is built around state and national standards, strategies that teachers know, and approaches to instruction that are supported by professional organizations. Its full-year courses provide excellent content, innovative student tasks, and student performance analytics, so teachers can adjust and personalize instruction. Exploros has more than 650 lessons—and is well on its way to 1,000 lessons—covering digital citizenship, social studies, and English language arts accessible through Lenovo devices. Embedded in its lesson plans are visual supports, primary source documents, paintings and pictures, videos, and graphic organizers to catch and keep students’ attention.

Accessed through Lenovo best-in-class devices, Exploros supports educational continuity that is essential in today’s modern classrooms. Together, Lenovo and Exploros provide the technology and infrastructure to keep students learning, no matter where learning takes place. 

A Solution that Meets Today’s Teaching Demands

Video is popular with learners, and now it’s a perfect match for the educational challenges of 2021 and beyond. By becoming creators on WeVideo, students engage with content conceptually, ensuring a deep and lasting understanding of essential concepts and standards.

Millions of students across grade levels and subjects use WeVideo in remote, in-person, and hybrid environments to create, collaborate, and express themselves with authenticity. Its interface enables teachers to provide timely and personalized feedback to each student.

Additionally since WeVideo is cloud-based, students can use any hardware to build PCs—from Lenovo tablets to Chromebooks to PCs. Content created on the WeVideo Video Editor App syncs with the secure WeVideo Cloud, and can be edited with full creative control on WeVideo.com. Real-time collaborative editing capability means students can work together on a project from anywhere, at any time. 

WeVideo gives learners powerful editing tools, accessible even on a Chromebook. It’s easy to activate and manage licenses through the Google Admin Console. What’s more, it’s built to fit your existing infrastructure and support the needs of teachers and administrators by offering:

  • Command and control of your platform and user settings
    • Integration with existing systems
    • A safe place for students to search, create, and share videos

IT administrators will appreciate the simplified provisioning and management capabilities, almost as much as teachers and students will enjoy indulging their creative spirits, while bringing learning to a whole new level.

With tools like WeVideo, teachers can be confident in their pursuit of student creativity and educational continuity, and students can be more engaged in learning and let their personalities, and in-depth subject knowledge shine.

A Digital Book for Today’s Education Digital Consumers 

In classrooms worldwide, educators are constantly on the hunt for new apps that enhance the classroom learning experience—and create the educational continuity that a pandemic can fracture. Enter Book Creator—a Chromebook creativity app that produces more than 2 million books worldwide, per month. The app allows students and teachers to create multimedia digital books to capture stories, portfolios, science reports, and more. It’s a flexible software that seamlessly gives students an easy and creative platform for collaborating, communicating, and demonstrating critical-thinking skills.

Book Creator provides a blank slate to free students’ creativity and personality—and templates to help nudge that creativity along. Of course, it’s not a book in the traditional sense. It’s a digital book that students fill with text, video, audio, and illustrations with the click of a button, and instantly publish and share. Students can work on the digital book alone, or collaborate across devices on a single topic, or across the semester or school year to produce a digital book that showcases their knowledge, creativity, and personality.

Teachers can also use Book Creator to create homework assignments or learning modules to custom-fit curriculum and lesson plans.

From a user perspective, Book Creator’s experience is the same, whether the student and teacher are face-to-face or connecting remotely. And teachers and administrators around the world love that it’s easy to deploy and manage—with just a click of a button in the Google App Hub, administrators can activate and assign licenses to different users, and track usage throughout the school year—all from the Google Admin Console.

Technology that Empowers Teachers

As schools scramble to redefine teaching in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—and establish a seamless model that will continue after the pandemic—Lenovo’s instructional software suite coupled with best-in-class Lenovo Chromebooks offer solutions for keeping students engaged and maximizing your technology budget.

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8 Reasons Enterprises Are Embracing...https://community.connection.com/8-reasons-enterprises-are-embracing-microsoft-azure-for-cloud-services/ May 14, 2021 Becky Lawlor https://community.connection.com/author/becky-lawlor/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1324584-Benefits-of-Azure-BLOG.jpg Is your team spending too much time and money on support, maintenance, and administration of legacy physical infrastructure? Are you struggling to scale your on-premises environments or finding that the cost to operate traditional disaster recovery solutions is becoming cost-prohibitive? 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it’s time to shift more of your operations to the cloud.

According to Gartner, by 2024, more than 45% of enterprise IT spending will be in areas that encompass moving to the cloud.1 It’s a trend that COVID-19 has helped accelerate, with many enterprises now needing to securely and efficiently support more remote workers and new digital initiatives. More than half of IT decision-makers have reported spending significantly more on cloud services than planned due to the pandemic.2

But why should you select Microsoft Azure over other cloud providers?  

If you have an extensive Microsoft footprint already, turning to Microsoft Azure to support your cloud strategy is the most straightforward path. But there are many other reasons why Azure remains the most popular supplier of public cloud services.

At Connection, as we’ve worked with medium and large enterprises to support their migration and ongoing cloud management, we’ve found that these are some of the most significant benefits of using Microsoft Azure: 

1. World-Class Security

With new cybersecurity threats emerging daily, security must be a top priority for every enterprise. Microsoft Azure has made security a foundational component of its platform, investing over 1B+ USD in security research and development. 

Other stand-out security features included in Microsoft Azure include:

  • Data protection: Microsoft uses advanced encryption processes to protect all data stored on Azure, including multi-factor authentication, proxy card access readers, and biometric readers and scanners. 
  • Threat intelligence database: One of the most sophisticated systems globally, Microsoft tracks more than 8 trillion daily global threats to identify new threats before they impact customers.
  • Automated monitoring and threat detection: Microsoft uses automated monitoring of cloud environments and artificial intelligence to identify potential threats, including DDoS and phishing attacks. Administrators are also automatically notified of potential threats and have the visibility and tools to respond quickly and efficiently.
  • Threat protection: Azure helps defend your hybrid environments from multiple attacks and threats by natively coordinating detection, prevention, investigation, and response across endpoints, identities, email, and applications.
  • VPN gateway: This security service gives you access to several tools to keep data secure while supporting remote workers with access to vital applications, data, and environments.

2. Most Comprehensive Compliance Coverage

Microsoft adheres to some of the most rigorous security and compliance standards in the world. They lead the industry with over 90 global compliance certificates, including over 50 certificates specific to global regions and countries and more than 35 compliance offerings specific to the needs of key industries, such as health, government, finance, education, manufacturing, and media. Microsoft was also the first to embrace the new international standard for cloud privacy, ISO 27018. And its built-in compliance controls make it easy to create, deploy, and enforce compliant environments with internal policies and external regulations.

3. Unique Hybrid Cloud Capabilities

Azure stands out in the marketplace of cloud providers for its unparalleled hybrid capabilities. Its hybrid services facilitate a reliable and consistent platform between on-premises and public cloud. Azure also provides a more comprehensive set of hybrid functionalities, including VPNs, file sharing, monitoring, content delivery networks (CDN), and point-to-point connectivity to improve usability and performance and make it easier for you to migrate apps or data and track usage.

4. Simplified Disaster Recovery and Back Up

As the volume of data continues to increase exponentially, preserving and protecting data has become more complex for IT administrators. Azure simplifies data recovery by allowing you to back up virtual machines, SQL workloads and on-premises VMware with a single click. Additionally, Microsoft helps you keep critical applications running and minimizes downtime through its built-in disaster recovery tools.

Real World Results of Azure Back Up 

Download our case study to learn how one advertising agency gained more confidence and control in their back up solution while paying 556% less by utilizing Connection’s Azure Managed Services.

Download the case study

5. Powerful Combination of PaaS And IaaS Services

Microsoft Azure offers Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). IaaS gives you the advantage of scaling on demand and paying only for what you use and eliminates the complexity of buying and managing your own infrastructure. Azure PaaS offers these advantages as well as access to sophisticated development tools and pre-coded application components built into the platform, which lets you cut your coding time and add development capabilities without adding staff.

6. Built-In Scalability

Scalability is a primary reason many enterprises make the shift to the cloud. Because cloud services can scale on demand, you can minimize business risk from a cost perspective while providing more flexibility to meet variable user demand. Azure makes it easy for enterprises to scale automatically—in or out as well as up or down—to meet workload demands. This gives you the flexibility to expand or decrease server capacity and existing hardware or software resources. Azure supports autoscaling on IaaS, PaaS, and virtual machines (VM). 

7. Easy to Learn

Microsoft Azure uses familiar tools such as Visual Studio, ASP, NET, and programming languages like Visual Basic, C++, and C#. Microsoft also provides extensive documentation and certification courses and has a strong network of trusted partners who can help with migration and ongoing management of Azure.

8. Cost-Efficient Pricing Structure

Microsoft Azure’s consumption-based pricing structure allows you to pay only for what you use. This allows enterprises to better manage their IT budgets and decrease infrastructure costs. It can also help cut down on IT administration costs because Microsoft Azure handles ongoing maintenance. However, if you lack the proper service support, your shift to the cloud may be more expensive and take more time than expected, resulting in additional costs. So it’s essential to make sure you have the experience and expertise in-house or through a trusted partner to guide you through your migration.

Make Your Move to Microsoft Azure

Migrating to Microsoft Azure can deliver many benefits to your enterprise, but as with any cloud migration, it’s also an involved process. To ensure you can maximize the benefits of Microsoft Azure, you want a trusted partner who will:

  • Make sure Microsoft Azure is the right fit for your organization
  • Help you determine which applications, workloads, and virtual machines to migrate
  • Assist with configuring an Azure environment and executing a smooth migration
  • Ensure you have the right security strategy in place
  • Configure monitoring, backups, and disaster recovery so you can efficiently operationalize your new Azure environment(s)
  • Fill any technology and management gaps

Connection can help you get the most out of your Microsoft Azure investment. Read our white paper, Optimize Your Existing Microsoft Azure Environment, to learn how we can help you increase performance, reduce overall costs, and more.

[1] Michael Warrilow, Ed Anderson, Colleen Graham, “Cloud Shift Will Shapte IT Strategies for Executive Leaders Through 2024,” Gartner, Jan. 25, 2021.
[2] State of the Cloud Report. Flexera. 2020

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The Age of the Citizen Developerhttps://community.connection.com/the-age-of-the-citizen-developer/ May 13, 2021 Mark E. Johnson https://community.connection.com/author/mark-e-johnson/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1309400-Citizen-Developer-Microsoft-Power-Apps-BLOG.jpg The Developer Is Dead! Long Live the Developer!

The roles of developers as we know them are not dying, but they are shrinking in their numbers. Does that sound crazy? I know, but it’s not, and here’s why. You see, the developer, as we’re used to thinking about them, has already evolved over time from the role Software Engineer—you know, that person with the CS degree that we either are or know whose role has changed in the company over the past 20 years. Initially, they were the person solving problems for companies using programming languages, like some version of C++ or C#. They use methodologies like Agile or Scrum. Then they seemed to be doing a lot more with Java and JavaScript. They’re constantly taking on more and more of the needs of the company but never having enough time to do everything we want from them.

And now everyone is getting in on the “developing” game. Kids born in roughly the last quarter century don’t remember a time before user generated video game mods. They’ve grown up creating their own mods to Minecraft and other games. We’ve gone past hacking our DVRs to building our own Raspberry Pi IoT controllers to make our own arcade games, programming our own home automation, and more. And it’s not just the people with Computer Science degrees. If you haven’t done something like this yourself, then I’ll bet you know at least one or two people who have.

Citizen Developer

The change in mindset stems from thinking about developers as this sort of “other” person. Highly skilled programmers have changed in the past 5 years. A lot. People today, from nine or ten years old and up, are creating or hacking their own code in a variety of ways. It is much less about knowing specific programming languages and much more about not being afraid to try something, to play around with it. This has created the birth of what we now call “citizen developers”: people who aren’t afraid to try something to see if they can solve the problem themselves. With all of the support platforms online, it’s no wonder that fewer and fewer people are waiting for someone else to solve those pesky little day to day issues that come up in their lives. Heck, sometimes that’s even how tech billionaires are made!

In 2016, Microsoft released Power Apps, and it has really taken off in a big way. Power Apps has what is referred to as a “low code”option where people with minimal programming experience or knowledge can develop Web apps for computers and mobile devices. In their own words, it is a “suite of apps, services, connectors, and data platform that provides a rapid application development environment to build custom apps for your business needs.” Power Apps and other low code platforms are changing the way that we work in much the same way that that spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel, has changed the modern workplace—and there’s no going back. The genie is out of the bottle, and once you learn a tiny bit, you won’t want to put it back.

The New Age of Apps in the Workplace and, Well, Everywhere

How often have you been frustrated by something seemingly small that there just doesn’t seem to be a solution to? I don’t mean that coworker who refuses to clean the microwave after using it. I mean your boss tells you that they want you to start gathering information from the seven buildings that make up your company’s operations in this country so that you can track maintenance requests. You have to put them in a spreadsheet and call the site managers of each location to determine when and how maintenance problems are getting addressed. As you start gathering information, you realize that this is no easy task, because each site’s site manager has a different process, and some of them make no sense to anyone but them. What a nightmare! If only there was software that could automate that and pool all of the data so that you could run reports for your boss on demand. Well, you know there is, but that sort of software is expensive, like Maserati expensive. But what if you could build something—simple at first, but that you could expand when you have time later? What if it started by creating a singular way to log maintenance requests, log the maintenance work, and log the results? What if everyone could access it easily from work or home, and you could run reports in it like you already do in other areas with Microsoft Dynamics?

Enter the citizen developer. Their attitude that, “If it sounds simple, and you understand what goes into making up the data elements of the problem, then you can build an app to do it much the same way that some whiz bang go-getter in 1995 was building spreadsheets to solve problems.” By storing, organizing, and presenting data, you are that whiz bang person today. That’s right. And this is something that you can do to solve problems at home, at work, for your religious community, non-profit where you volunteer, or wherever else there are simple problems that need solving.

It really can be as simple as drawing out what you need to track and building the interface in a Web-based environment with minimal or even no scripting. Once you get more comfortable with Power Apps, you can add scripts or use features like Flow to automate tasks. Then you can start running monthly or quarterly reports that are emailed, as if by magic, to your boss. Or creating a smartphone-optimized interface for anyone in the company to be able to submit maintenance requests and even track them. Your boss will be thrilled.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t merely simple tasks that can be solved in Power Apps. There are complex apps and entire environments being built here. The main requirement is that it is housed in Microsoft Azure. One example of a complex website built this way is The JFK Files. It uses Power Apps to leverage the dynamism of the Azure cloud environment. The actual breadth and depth of the site is pretty amazing. The site utilizes varied data sources to analyze pictures using facial recognition capability, analyzes complex search algorithms, and more.

I encourage you to play around on the site and think about what the different functions are doing and how that function could be applied to things in your work or just in your life in general.

The Future of Software Development

If you haven’t already started thinking about what you could do to simplify your job or some other aspect of your life with Power Apps, then stop and ask yourself what sort of data modeling and reporting would you do if you could plug into almost any type of data source? I mean from Adobe to Zendesk and just about everything in between. And, yes, that list includes YouTube. There are hundreds of existing connectors, and if what you want doesn’t exist, you can learn to create your own and even post it. Your connector could help others and build cred in the Microsoft tech sphere and on your resume. This is really big, and your limitations could simply be your own imagination. What’s more, since anything you build in Power Apps is built within a standardized environment, if you get promoted out of your job to VP of Site Operations, you can make sure that the person hired to take over for you can easily manage the apps you built and can continue expanding them. That way you can continue helping your company to advance into the new decade. Now are you thinking about what you could do with Power Apps to simplify your job or other aspects of your life? I bet you are!

So, is the developer really dead? No, but the role has evolved, thanks to tools like Power Apps, and it looks very different than it did just ten years ago. Power Apps is technology that you can use to really stand out, too. Smart hiring managers that see Power Apps listed in the special skills section of a resume are increasingly putting that resume on the top of the pile. You do not have to change careers to be a developer any longer. Simply put, if you see using spreadsheets as a simple way to put information together, get answers, and maybe even solve problems, then you can be a citizen developer—regardless of whether your title is Customer Service Manager, Administrative Assistant, Bookkeeper, or Site Operations Manager.

If you want to talk to a Microsoft Expert about Power Apps, we’re here to help. Get in touch with Connection today!

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Don’t Set It and Forget It: The Benefits...https://community.connection.com/dont-set-it-and-forget-it-the-benefits-of-a-cloud-monitoring-strategy/ May 06, 2021 Liz Alton https://community.connection.com/author/liz-alton/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/1298756-Cloud-Monitoring-Strategy-BLOG.jpg If you’re thinking about embracing cloud computing but you’re concerned about security, you’re in good company. Cloud computing offers businesses a variety of benefits, from reducing latency to providing access to data when and where it’s needed. When used strategically, it can increase flexibility, reduce costs, and make it easier for companies to scale on-demand.

However, security remains one of the biggest considerations when choosing cloud computing. Here’s a closer look at how secure the cloud really is, and why ongoing monitoring can be your secret weapon to help keep your data protected.

Cloud Security By the Numbers

Just how big is cloud computing? And how secure is it? Let’s dive into the numbers:

Cloud Security Settings and Support

Even when you partner with a cloud provider that has a good track record and strong security setting, it’s important to remember that there are multiple layers to a strong security plan. One of the benefits of working with a trusted cloud provider is that they have extensive, multi-layered security protocols in place. Most cloud providers also employ an army of people whose job it is to ensure that security issues don’t happen—and when they do, that they’re quickly resolved. For many firms, having access to that level of on-site technology and talent simply isn’t financially feasible. The security support is a valuable asset when you’re considering whether to do business with a cloud provider.

The second puzzle piece that needs to be taken into consideration, when storing data in the cloud, is the security settings. Maximizing your security requires making the most of the best tools a provider offers. For example, Microsoft Azure has a variety of security features available, such as its security center, compliance tools, and certifications. Whether you’re shoring up access management or complying with specific industry guidelines, it’s important to maximize cloud security solutions and settings to help protect your data. Yet it’s also critical to recognize that these foundational steps are just the start.

The Future of Cloud Security Is Visibility and Monitoring 

Once the foundation of your cloud security has been laid, it’s important to develop a plan for ongoing monitoring. With the threat landscape and the way cloud products are constantly evolving, real-time intelligence is essential. The way to think about this from a strategic and technological standpoint is: Do you have the cloud visibility you need? 

The importance of visibility can’t be overstated. In fact, CSO Online notes: “Unsanctioned apps are essentially shadow IT—applications employees use without permission or support of IT or security. Any app that does not meet corporate guidelines for security represents a risk that the security team might be unaware of. Sanctioned app misuse might be an authorized person using an approved app or an external threat actor using stolen credentials. Security teams need to be able to tell the difference between valid and invalid users by detecting out-of-norm behaviors.”

In other words, the real issues with cloud computing begin to arise when you try to “set it and forget it.” Cloud computing security isn’t a passive activity. You need a proactive plan in place that gives you visibility into who is accessing your data, how it’s being used, and whether there are any activities that violate policy or are out of the ordinary and require additional investigation.

Ongoing Cloud Monitoring Services

Ongoing cloud monitoring solutions and services can help you rein in security risks. Automated tools that leverage policy-based rules and AI can constantly scan your data and environment for a variety of known and emerging threats. Cloud monitoring services allow you to track and respond to potential security issues in real-time. A variety of technology solutions can be deployed by your team or used as part of a robust monitoring package provided by a partner.

A managed cloud services provider like Connection can also help you ensure that you have the human capital and cloud security expertise to quickly respond to any threat. When an anomaly is detected—such as a threat file within your data or an unauthorized access attempt—it can be immediately investigated and remediated. Cloud monitoring partners can also ensure that your migrations are completed efficiently, and that security settings maximize the benefit of a provider’s tools to further minimize the chance of ongoing risks. Monitoring solutions can also be paired with backup and disaster recovery for another layer of support.

If you’re ready to move your data to the cloud, take the security considerations seriously. As more and more information moves to the cloud, it’s becoming an increasingly profitable target for data breaches and other cybercrimes. However, today’s leading cloud providers offer an array of tools and settings that can provide a secure foundation. When combined with ongoing monitoring services or solutions, you can gain the full benefits of cloud computing while knowing that your company’s most valuable asset—its data—remains protected and secure.

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Managing Information Security with...https://community.connection.com/managing-information-security-with-microsoft-foundational-components/ May 04, 2021 Jake Giffin https://community.connection.com/author/jake-giffin/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/1306462-Microsoft-InfoSec-Part2-BLOG.jpg Microsoft continues to expand the capabilities included within their various cloud subscription plans. In the first part of our series, we covered what to keep in mind while building security policies and how Microsoft security tools can be used in that process. Today, we are going to look at some of the foundational, introductory attributes that can help you with your information security journey. As I approach this conversation with clients, I often ask, “Have you have gone through any formal data discovery or classification effort?” Many times, they are discussing the process and maybe even starting it, but it has not been completed. So how do you see the project through?

Azure Information Protection (AIP) Scanner

If you have rights to AIP Plan 1, you have a tool that can be used to point to your on-premises file shares. One thing to keep in mind here is the licensing, especially if you have a mix of levels (Office 365 and Microsoft 365) for different user types. AIP Plan 1 needs to be licensed for any user that has created content on the storage target that the scanner is pointing to. As you can imagine, this can be very challenging to determine if you are pointing to large data volumes. Let’s assume that the licensing is not an issue that needs to be addressed. The AIP Scanner acts as the discovery engine for analyzing the on-premises repositories for sensitive information that may need to be classified and protected.

What if you already have some users embracing cloud storage? If these destinations are not completely locked down, users could be leveraging personal accounts for company data. How can you find out if unsanctioned apps or platforms are being used currently?

Azure Active Directory (AD) Cloud App Discovery

This functionality comes with the Azure AD Premium Plan 1 entitlement and gives the IT group visibility into shadow IT within the organization. Cloud Discovery utilizes the full catalog (over 16,000 cloud apps) from the full Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS) platform. Outputs such as log analysis, cloud application risk assessment, and usage analytics by application/user/IP address are all available for consumption.

Policy Enforcement

Now that you have a better understanding of the data repositories and any cloud storage currently in use, you will need to determine which data the organization deems as sensitive and how you want the user population to be able to interact with this data. This may be the appropriate time to revisit current company policy and any regulatory considerations. Make sure that written security policy aligns with your actual technology enforcement and delivery. In my next post in this series, we will start down the enforcement path with topics like rights management, retention labels and policies, and data loss prevention (DLP) rules.

If you’re ready to get started or want more information, our Microsoft specialists are only a phone call away. You can also learn more about our Modern Work and Security Services. Reach out today!

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Meet the Challenges of the Changing...https://community.connection.com/meet-the-challenges-of-the-changing-classroom-with-the-right-technology/ Apr 30, 2021 Delia DeCourcy https://community.connection.com/author/delia-decourcy/ https://community.connection.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/1307499-Lenovo-Meet-the-Challenges-BLOG1.jpg When the pandemic started, you probably scrambled a bit to quickly develop educational continuity plans that ensured students could continue learning remotely, at least part-time. Likely, you increased the use of current technologies that created seamless learning experiences or rolled out new ones. If this was the case, you weren’t alone.

And when the pandemic is over, those technologies aren’t going anywhere. The classroom is changing. Although most schools are back to some form of in-person instruction, classrooms are unlikely to return to how they were two years ago. Schools worldwide have discovered the benefits of distance learning in certain situations, interactive apps that drive collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and software that alerts them if students act inappropriately. Many schools have realized that those benefits aren’t restricted to fully virtual or even hybrid teaching models.

Most importantly, they discovered some technologies could be safely used regardless of where students are learning. That’s no small thing when districts are charged with protecting student information, data, and learning environments.

This class evolution is a good thing—and in truth, it was occurring even before the pandemic. Mentally compare your modern classrooms to the classrooms you sat in. Teachers’ chalky hands and boxy televisions have been replaced with smartboards and online videos. Typing into a computer has replaced hand-copying notes from the blackboard, and engaging content that students can take ownership of has replaced yawn-inducing lectures. This last point is particularly significant because when students take ownership of their learning, good things happen.

Enhance Teaching and Learning

To continue this evolution, your school must continue to find the right tools—the right computers and tablets as well as the right software—that strengthen the classroom environment and create a seamless learning experience, no matter where the learning takes place. For instance, there are many apps, but not all provide the bang for your buck that you demand while others are not even built with educational considerations (like student data privacy) in mind.

Because of this, carefully vetting any new technology before you invest is more important than ever. You need software that is portable via the cloud, so that students can accomplish their assignments anywhere, at any time. You need technologies that support the four Cs teaching approach and apps that are compliant with privacy laws, don’t track your students or collect data on them, and create safe learning environments. 

Perhaps most of all, you need apps that students enjoy and find engaging. Implementing that technology is still a challenge, of course; the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic haven’t changed that. Although we can deploy devices that are protected from hackers and safe for students, safety is precarious. If the devices aren’t properly updated and maintained, they may quickly fall under a cascade of errors that open them up to attacks. So you need some way to maintain control of your devices and apps, even when they’re not on your school’s network.

Fortunately, there are technologies out there that can reliably help. This includes apps such as Book Creator and WeVideoAbsoluteLightSpeedSentinelOne, and Exploros software. By deploying those technologies and others across security, engagement, and device management, you can continue to evolve your classrooms for the future. 

Lenovo Believes In Better Outcomes

Lenovo is committed to supporting educational continuity—partnering with innovative companies to give schools the technology to create better student outcomes and to get the most out of your technology investments. With Lenovo technology, you get:

  • Cybersecurity and student safety apps that track, assess, and protect remote devices 24/7. IT administrators can secure student devices against cyberattacks, manage versions, monitor device health, and report device and software usage. Plus, comprehensive content filtering and student monitoring keep students safe.
  • Instructional resources that challenge students with engaging learning tasks. These allow teachers to provide interactive lessons, web-based VR content, and high-quality, standards-based STEM activities.
  • And, of course, best-of-class devices to run all of this school-friendly software.

Together, these features and benefits provide engaging, seamless educational experiences in the classroom today, tomorrow, and when unforeseen events occur.

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