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Having trouble managing data volume?

As a growing number of businesses across just about all industries adopt new tech trends like bring-your-own-device policies, big data analytics and the Internet of Things, the volume of information stored by such organizations is reaching increasingly high levels.

In an attempt to manage the growing amounts of data, many companies have scaled their existing IT infrastructure by incorporating disparate systems on outdated technology. This creates overly complex IT environments and puts even more strain on storage setups and IT administrators.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

So what are enterprises to do? The current business environment calls for faster and more agile access to critical data. To gain the competitive advantages necessary to stay ahead of the game, many organizations are deploying converged infrastructure.

Moving to a converged infrastructure

Instead of buying one-off machines and separate CPU, storage and network components and having to configure them all, converged infrastructure allows IT administrators to access an preconfigured, integrated experience in a box. A growing number of enterprises are seeing the advantages to implementing converged infrastructure, according to research firm IDC.

Converged systems scale out performance and capacity by virtualizing computing and storage power across multiple nodes. Data protection and failover are managed between the nodes, and clients typically must start with a minimum of three to account for availability. Once the system has been implemented, users can add nodes on an individual basis in order to increase storage and computing resources.

There are a variety of benefits to converged infrastructure:

  • Faster Provisioning: By employing a converged infrastructure model, a job that may have once required a provisioning time of three weeks can be cut down to less than an hour in some instances.
  • Lowers costs: With convergence, fewer single-use components are needed, and fewer components will be used in the data center overall. This decrease means fewer components to manage, troubleshoot and operate, as well as a reduction in the physical footprint of the data center or other IT facility.
  • Simpler management infrastructure: A converged infrastructure centralizes the management of servers, networks and storage, creating more streamlined daily maintenance. This requires less personnel and a lower knowledge base as opposed to traditional upkeep, freeing up skilled tech workers for more business-critical functions.
  • Quicker IT response: Creates a more agile way to respond to changes in the marketplace or with business priorities.
  • Reduced siloing of IT teams: Instead of managing storage and CPU separately, everything is done together. Fewer overall IT resources are needed with converged infrastructure and more knowledge and cross-training becomes available throughout the business.
  • Improved control: Control is now centralized and management of multiple functions and devices can take place at one time.
  • Scalability and flexibility: Allows the capacity of the entire data center or IT footprint to be quickly adjusted to meet client demands.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

Converged infrastructure offers business considerable savings as opposed to traditional approaches. As the market continues to evolve, systems will become simplified and more third-party integrators will emerge to take over the task from in-house teams. This will lead to increased options and lower costs.

Modern converged systems focus management on virtual machines, moving commodity computing resources and disks to the background. As the market continues to grow, more options will emerge that offer both options in combined nodes, enabling improved scalability. Sometimes referred to as hyperconvergence, this unites storage, computing a networking in a single unit around a hypervisor that takes care of all of the management duties.

With enterprise data volumes increasing all the time and as the need for reliable, agile and secure management solutions become more important, working with a third-party service provider to create a converged infrastructure solution is more often than not the best way for business to access competitive advantages.

Everything you need to know about VoIP phone systems

As internet speeds and capacities increase and technologies and costs improve, more and more businesses are cutting the cord from traditional phone systems. They are choosing to adopt Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems.
Just the same, it’s smart to determine if the hype is justified. How good are the monetary savings? How seamlessly will it integrate with your current or future business technology? Is VoIP secure?
Before you make any decision regarding changes to your business phone systems, take a look at the pros and cons of VoIP.

How it works

VoIP works by converting voice into digital data and sending it through your Internet connection via the router.
VoIP allows for normal phone calls through the internet with all of the options usually enjoyed by business’s traditional PBX systems including voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, caller ID, and more.
In addition, VoIP software integrates well with desktop computers for use as “softphones”. The only requirement is that they have voice and audio input/output capabilities.

“The last decade saw a splurge of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) businesses mushrooming around the world.” – Forbes

Setting it up

Setting up a VoIP is fairly simple. You need a reliable internet connection with decent bandwidth. Most VoIP providers handle delivering calls and software needs—particularly if you’re using plug-and-play phones certified for that service provider.
Generally, there are no other hardware requirements aside from the phones themselves.
If you opt for a self-hosted, onsite VoIP system, it gets a little more involved. You’ll need to get a VoIP-friendly version of the private branch exchange (PBX) phone system many businesses already use to handle routing your calls to the appropriate phones on the network as well as a PTSN gateway to sit between the VoIP PBX software and the traditional public switch telephone network.
If you don’t wish to host your PBX software on your server, you can opt for a cloud-based phone system. That way, all of the hosting and management is done through a cloud service provider and paid on a subscription basis.
Whatever option you choose, managing the network phones and extensions is fairly simple and you can do further fine-tuning via your provider’s online account interface.
The IP phones themselves usually come in two forms. Most look very much like the traditional desktop business phone with all of the usual features—speakerphone, hold and transfer buttons, multi-caller functions, etc. Some even allow for video conferencing which comes in useful for demos, sales pitches, or just providing a human face to communication.
The other option is “softphones” which are software-based clients installed on computers and mobile devices. These offer the same full functionality as the desktop phones, plus often have instant messaging capability and, with video input available, allow for face-to-face video conferencing.

VoIP versus POTS

It’s common that when a new technology hits the scene that debate erupts over which is better. POTS is an acronym for Pretty Old Phone System, also known as PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). This has been the way businesses have handled communication since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. For that reason alone, many are hesitant to make the switch.
But how do the differences really compare for business? There are actually some solid reasons for POTS.
For one, there is continuity of business and of service. VoIP won’t work without an internet connection. Which means it’s not only vulnerable to network issues but power failures as well. POTS are much more dependable in these cases and allow businesses to maintain phone communication even when the internet is down.
911 calls can also be more reliable over landlines, whereas e911 calls are vulnerable to power or internet outages. For these reasons some companies, like alarm companies, require a landline in order to maintain their security monitoring.
And, in some cases, voice quality over POTS is still superior, but this may change as VoIP continues to evolve.
On the other side, VoIP offers a number of benefits not readily available to POTS subscribers.

What are the benefits of VoIP?

There’s a reason why so many businesses are adopting VoIP technology. While there exist a few pros to maintaining a POTS subscription, the benefits of switching to VoIP outnumber them.

Low cost

Generally, VoIP systems are just cheaper than traditional phone systems. There is less hardware to purchase, and, in most cases, VoIP hosts don’t require any new hardware at all. If they do, it’s usually readily available hardware that’s not locked down with propriatary limitations.
When managing remote employees—even far-flung remote employees—there is no extra cost due to distance. Because the voice and data are being sent via the internet, there are no long distance fee considerations. New York calling Los Angeles is the same as calling across the street. In fact, most VoIP services offer free calls to coworkers regardless of location.
Monthly subscription fees are lower as well, and often don’t require a contract.
Much can depend on the amount of phone traffic you regularly have. At worst, you’re not likely to be spending more than you already are. However, you’ll have the added value VoIP can bring you.

“The advancements in technology have greatly helped small business owners to realize increased productivity and lower cost structure in all sectors.” – CIO

Mobility

VoIP is particularly suited for those employees who are not tethered to a desk or traditional office setup.
Many providers offer dedicated apps for sending and receiving calls from remote locations using their data connection and mobile devices including those devices that fall under your business’s BYOD policies. You can set these apps to right simultaneously with an office phone. Apps can even function as a standalone extension.
Likewise, video conferencing options are available for salespeople to run demos and pitches with the same ease and low cost as voice communications from wherever is most convenient or effective, saving on both time and travel.
Being away from the phone is not a problem as voicemail and instant messaging can be converted to email or text messaging and sent to any device specified.

Scalability

You won’t have to worry about installing additional hardware to accommodate new extensions when your business requires them. VoIP service expansion is as simple and inexpensive as purchasing another certified phone with plug-and-play adaptability. At most, connecting a VoIP-enabled phone to your network will require tweaking a few settings. You could also install the softphone client software onto additional networked computers.
VoIP allows for adding or removing any number of phones and extensions. So you can do what makes the most sense for your business’s current needs.

Integration with unified communications systems

If your business uses or is considering implementing a unified communications (UC) system, VoIP fits in well and may already be part of its infrastructure. Because both the UC system and VoIP rely on network connectivity and management, including both makes sense, and both use many of the same communication features such as instant messaging, call management, video calling and conferencing, and mobility.
VoIP becomes another tool for enhancing collaborative workflow and business productivity.

“Today’s small businesses have extensive options for selecting a business phone system, particularly now that cloud-hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions are so prominent in the marketplace.” – TechRepublic

Security on VoIP networks

When it comes to the security of your VoIP system, much of that is in the hands of the user. Many VoIP services don’t come with internal security obstacles for cybercriminals to overcome. For that, you need to rely on those same security protocols and best practices as usual.
You’ll want the usual robust firewall protections on your network and employee education regarding phishing scams and malware attacks. You can consider encryption and VPN options as well.
Taken as a whole, however, VoIP is as secure as traditional telephony.

Is VoIP for you?

VoIP is such a rapidly developing technology and is being adopted at a growing rate among companies worldwide. As such, it has been suggested that it may supplant POTS in time. You may want to consider making the switch. It’s simple, given the low costs, the flexibility, and multitude of services available with VoIP systems
As with any business decision, you should do the research and consult with your experts. You’ll likely find that companies dedicated to keeping a competitive edge and looking to take every advantage possible to strengthen their business are adopting VoIP as a useful tool.
 

The presidential debate and the future of American cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is becoming less of an individual problem and more of an issue that entire states need to deal with. Due to the importance of this issue, both presidential candidates were asked in the recent debate to discuss the current state of cybersecurity within the U.S. as well as what they plan to do when they get into the Oval Office. Their responses – as well as their previous actions – could very well foretell the future of America’s cybersecurity efforts.

Both candidates need to study up

During the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked the candidates about their opinions concerning the current state of U.S. cybersecurity. Hillary Clinton was quick to jump on Russia as a major antagonist. In fact, she went so far as to blame Putin himself for the hack levied against the Democratic National Convention. She also took a very hard line against anyone considering a cyberattack against America, saying that the U.S. would not “sit idly by” and allow foreign entities to breach private American data.

That said, Clinton has certainly had trouble with cybersecurity in the past. She set up her own private email server against State Department regulations, which was eventually compromised by a hacker.

Clinton has been hacked before. A hacker was able to gain access to Clinton’s private email server.

Donald Trump was also adamant that America needs to improve its defenses, although his response was slightly different. As Government Technology’s Eyragon Eidam pointed out, Trump brought up the uncertainty of cyberattacks like the one that befell the DNC. When discussing this attack, the candidate said it could have been anyone from Russia to Iran or even “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

While it’s certainly true that America’s enemies are no longer visible on a map, broadly painting hackers as obese people downplays the importance of this issue.

New federal CISO’s job hangs in the balance

Although both of the candidates will continue to duke it out, the current president has decided to take action. President Obama has created the position of federal chief information security officer, and he’s appointed retired Brigadier General Gregory J. Touhill to the post. Touhill has more than 30 years of experience in the U.S. military, much of which was spent within IT. He’s also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, according to his biography on the Air Force’s website. This position is meant to come up with a uniform cybersecurity plan for federal government organizations.

“The federal CISO is an appointed position.”

While it’s certainly good to see the White House attempting to tackle the widespread security problems present across the government, the federal CISO is an appointed position. This means the current president is allowed to choose who can fulfill the role, which puts Touhill in a tenuous position. The next president will enter office on January 20, 2017, which means Touhill has around four months to implement some changes.

Whether the next president keeps Touhill will depend entirely on who wins. If Trump is voted into office, he’ll most likely want a fresh slate and appoint his own CISO. There’s a good chance that Clinton will do the same – however, she’s probably Touhill’s only hope at job security. He’ll have to make some huge leaps in the next few months if he hopes to impress.

Could a network assessment have saved Southwest from major downtime?

Southwest Airlines has been having a pretty turbulent few weeks. First, starting on July 20, the organization had one of the largest IT outages ever to affect a major airline. Now, two unions associated with the company are demanding that CEO Gary Kelly step down or be fired, according to David Koenig of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

Although it was originally estimated that the downtime cost as little as $5 million, one Southwest representative stated that it’s most likely going to be “into the tens of millions.” With so much money being lost to a technical failure, the question remains: How did this happen, and was it preventable?

One router started all the trouble

Koenig reported that all of these IT issues stemmed from a single router. Basically, this piece of equipment failed in an unpredictable way, which eventually led to other systems being knocked offline. Southwest is keeping specific details about this undisclosed, but the scale of this particular outage suggests that the network associated with this router was not properly set up.

“Companies need multiple points of failure to accommodate for a singular outage.”

As their name implies, these devices route information to their intended destinations. Data generally is bounced between multiple locations before arriving where it’s being sent. Generally, this means you have multiple points of failure to accommodate for a singular outage. If it’s true that one router’s downing caused this event, then Southwest most likely had a poorly engineered network. FlightStats stated that around 8,000 flights were affected in this incident, and a single router simply should not have the ability to affect that many planes.

The conclusion to be made here is that Southwest should have tested its network more rigorously. Network assessments are incredibly important in order to determine weak points within a particular IT system, such as how one router could be made accountable for thousands of flights. Simple tests such as these could have easily uncovered this point of failure, allowing Southwest to take actions to mitigate the risks of such a catastrophic outage.

Network assessments can prevent more than downtime

Although downtime is certainly something businesses should work to avoid, it isn’t the only problem that network assessments can unveil. These tests also help companies determine their preparedness in terms of cybersecurity. Perhaps the best recent example of this is the massive heist levied against Bangladesh Bank.

At its most basic, hackers gained access to a global banking system and basically tricked financial institutions into sending money to fraudulent accounts. When all was said and done, the criminals involved in this got away with $81 million, according to Serajul Quadir of Reuters. After some investigation, it was discovered that the bank was relying on $10 network switches for the banking system. On top of that, Bangladesh Bank had no firewall protecting private financial data.

This is one of the biggest heists in history. Hackers got away with millions from Bangladesh Bank.

IT companies are generally surprised to hear when small businesses don’t have firewalls, so the thought of a multi-billion dollar corporation lacking these most basic of cybersecurity tools is simply mind-boggling. To top this off, the heist could have been so much worse. The criminals were originally trying to get closer to $1 billion dollars, but their plans were foiled when they accidentally misspelled the name of a financial institution.

Simple mistakes such as those made by Bangladesh Bank are exactly what network assessments are designed to catch. IT employees at these organizations often need to focus on keeping systems running, and cybersecurity can sometimes take a backseat. As this incident shows, this can often have disastrous results, and companies need to be aware of the consequences of letting something like this go under the radar.

Let ISG Technology help preserve your company’s image

Clearly, missing even the smallest detail in your network’s setup could seriously affect both your company’s finances and its client-facing image. No one wants to put their money in a bank that can’t keep it safe, and consumers certainly don’t want to spend money on an airline that has a history of leaving passengers stranded. As such, it might be time to have your company’s IT infrastructure checked out by an experienced professional.

ISG Technology’s experts have spent years investigating and solving some of the most complex network problems out there, and we can help make sure your company’s name isn’t dragged through the mud. If you’d like to find out how you can benefit from a free consultation, contact one of our representatives today.

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How can your company benefit from hyperconvergence?

Computing resources are very often mismanaged within the business world. Considering just under one-third of all servers haven’t processed data within the last six months, it’s clear that there are a lot of inefficiencies within enterprise IT. This kind of ineffective model is exactly what hyperconvergence is meant to solve.

Combining all computing, storage and other IT resources into a singular device is allowing companies to get more creative with their technology solutions. To that end, let’s take a peek at what the average organization can get out of hyperconvergence:

Simplify IT operations

One of the great benefits of hyperconvergence is that it helps IT employees immensely cut down on the number of individualized resources they need to deal with. A hyperconverged infrastructure allows workers the unique opportunity of handling all of these components through a centralized platform. This increases efficiency and enables staff members the ability to treat IT resources as if they were a singular system.

Hyperconvergence makes IT work easier. Allowing resources to be accessed through a singular platform allows employees to keep it all together with ease.

Scale up efficiently

Another great advantage of working in a hyperconverged environment is the fact that these systems can be very easily scaled up or down according to a company’s needs or desires. Organizations need to be constantly growing and innovating in order to continue operations, and scaling up IT needs is simply a requirement of modern business. Due to the fact that hyperconverged infrastructure growth simply requires the acquisition of new nodes, the employees can rest assured they’ll have the resources they need to get the job done.

“Hyperconverged systems can be very easily scaled up or down.”

What’s more, companies from all over the world are seeing just how easy it is to grow under a hyperconverged model. A study conducted by ActualTech Media found that 42 percent of IT workers thought it was easier to scale up within their hyperconverged infrastructure than it was to do so in other IT schemes.

It would appear that many within the business technology community don’t know about this benefit. The same study also found that only 6 percent of respondents stated that scalability was a driving force behind the switch to hyperconvergence. Clearly, this topic needs to reach a wider audience.

This is of course only a taste of what a hyperconverged infrastructure can give to the modern business. That said, this technology has far-reaching implications for many organizations, and its benefits should be carefully studied by those wishing to increase efficiency.

Data dilemma: Where does police body camera footage go?

As recording technologies get smaller and cheaper, giving police officers cameras to wear on their bodies at all times is quickly becoming a reality. These devices have incredible implications, both for average citizens and for officers, as they allow the courts to cut through all the drama and hearsay in order to get to the truth of what exactly happened. That said, there are a few obstacles standing in the way of widespread body camera deployment.

One of the biggest issues currently facing departments wishing to bring these gadgets to the field is the storage of the video itself. Having a camera running at all times during an officer’s shift creates a lot of footage, and simply deleting this because “nothing happened” isn’t an option. After all, an officer could have recorded something of import without even noticing it. So how extensive is this storage problem, and what can police departments do to ease such a transition?

How much data can a police department generate?

Before delving into the more nuanced discussions of data storage, it’s vital to first understand exactly how much data the average police station can create. Each department will obviously have its own special needs, but a good place to start is the analysis of the Chula Vista, California, police department’s data storage given by Lieutenant Vern Sallee in Police Chief Magazine.

Sallee stated that his station had 200 sworn police officers that were using body cameras in their daily rounds. After playing around with their current setup, Sallee’s department found that a 30-minute video demands around 800 MB of storage. Accounting for all officers with cameras, Chula Vista could generate around 33 TB of data annually. To put this in perspective, Sallee stated that this is roughly the same size as 17 million photographs.

Again, it’s important to remember that this is a rough estimate for a single town. Chula Vista has just over 265,000 citizens, making it larger than the average American city. That said, such a population pales in comparison to the 8.5 million people living in New York City, and implementing a police body camera initiative in this kind of metropolis would be a whole different ball game. What’s more, these larger cities are the ones that need body cameras the most, as they generally have more violent crime requiring forceful police intervention. Clearly, simply finding a place to put all this data is going to be a challenge.

Data storage has its woes. Keeping large portions of data for long stretches of time can be difficult.

Privacy and security are huge concerns

Another major concern with these body cameras is the privacy of the people involved in the recordings. As stated, departments can’t delete a video until they are absolutely sure that nothing on it could possibly be useful in the future. This means that the actions of a lot of innocent people are going to be recorded and stored, and this has certain civil rights groups worried.

In fact, a coalition of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union presented some guidelines to legislators in 2015 attempting to govern how these recordings are treated. The group wanted to prevent an overreaching use of facial recognition software, as well as ensure officers were only allowed to watch their videos from the day after filing a report, according to CNN.

“Police officers have the right to discuss personal matters without being listened to.”

On top of that, it’s important to remember that police officers have rights, too. These men and women will be recorded at all times during their shift, which means any private conversations they’ve had with their partners could easily be viewed by a third party. These people have the right to discuss personal matters without being listened to after the fact, and officers shouldn’t live in fear that their superiors will eavesdrop on some conversation that they don’t agree with.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all of this is for naught if police departments can’t keep the video files secure. A malicious individual or group could do a lot of damage with the ability to map out an officer’s day-to-day duties, and departments must therefore do everything in their power to ensure these criminals are kept at bay.

Partnering with the right company is crucial

Clearly, there are a lot of challenges to overcome when implementing a body camera initiative. That said, the pros definitely outweigh the cons if police administrators are willing to find the right partner for the job. Any officials looking for a company to assist them in their transition should definitely check out the data storage services offered by ISG Technology. We have years of experience storing information for companies from all kinds of industries, and we pride ourselves on our ability to keep our clients’ data safe. Contact us today and find out what an ISG Technology solution can do for your department.

What does an ISG network assessment look like?

Business technology has become incredibly complex in the past few years. Companies often fall victim to their own success, growing so quickly that the IT department can’t keep up. This can often lead to the network infrastructure being put on the back burner while employees work daily just to keep operations afloat.

Organizations often don’t have the time or expertise to evaluate their own infrastructure, which is why ISG Technology offers comprehensive network assessments. But what do one of these examinations look like, and what can companies get out of them? Let’s take a look:

“No two companies are going to have the same needs.”

What’s the first step?

The problem with laying out a first step for such a complex process is the fact that no two companies are going to have the same needs. A network assessment could mean checking the local compute environment, but it could also have to do with looking at a business’s circuit load. One section of the assessment could be as simple as determining whether or not a physical system has single points of failure.

This is why ISG recommends that companies that come to us looking for a network assessment should first determine what their end goals are. Administrators may not be able to completely vocalize what they need, but they should at least have an idea of what they’re after. Basically, the point of this exercise is to get the organization from its current state to its future state. If we know what a company’s intended future state is, we can recommend clear and decisive actions officials should take in order to get there.

What kinds of issues does the average company run into?

Although each organization is going to have its own unique situation, there are some pretty common problems that our engineers run into on a regular basis. One of the most apparent has to do with mobile devices and their use for work purposes. The Pew Research Center found that just under 70 percent of American adults currently own a smartphone, which means a majority of office workers currently have such a device in their pockets at all times.

Due to the advanced capabilities of these devices, workers are increasingly using their smartphones to access company data. The problem with this is that these employees very rarely take any measures to protect their phones. An infographic from Consumer Reports found that 34 percent of smartphone owners didn’t take any sort of security measures with their phones, and that’s including a screen lock with a four-digit password. Therefore, companies that aren’t taking proactive steps to secure private data from stolen or lost phones are at significant risk of a data breach.

Another major issue we often see is businesses not controlling network physical access in the right way. Many companies are now relying on voice-over-Internet-protocol technology, which allows workers to speak to clients via the Internet. It’s an amazing technology with multiple uses, but IP phones can also be an access point for criminals. These devices require a cable connection in order to get on the Internet. This means that anyone with the ability to get into the office could potentially plug a laptop into one of these cords and instantly access the entire network.

Cybercriminals often break into offices to steal data. Hackers don’t just use computers to commit their crimes.

This is of course a very specific example, but it shows that companies often aren’t thinking of network security correctly. The reality of the situation is that hackers really don’t care how they gain access to a business’s information. Whether it’s by stealing an employee’s phone or dressing up as a janitor to plug into the network after hours, a criminal with enough initiative will find whatever holes exist in current security standards and exploit them.

ISG has the experience needed to do the job right

An ISG network assessment has one major component that sets us apart from other companies: experience. The average ISG engineer has been with the company for eight or nine years, which means they know our network assessment playbook backward and forward. They’ve seen all the classic mistakes – as well as some unconventional ones – and they know what the modern business needs to solve these problems.

When you work with ISG, you can rest assured that you’re dealing with some of the most experienced professionals in the field. If you’d like to see what this wealth of knowledge can do for you, contact an ISG network expert and set up your free IT infrastructure assessment today.





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What can health care get out of data mining?

Data is being created and stored at a rate unparalleled by any other time in human history. As such, the analysis of this information in order to discover trends has never been as important as it is now. This is especially true within health care, an industry that quite literally deals with life-or-death situations on a daily basis. Mining the data created by both patients and medical professionals has major implications for the field.

With that said, what can health care facilities get out of data mining, and what challenges stand in the way of this trend?

Efficiency while still being effective

As with most other industries, the main benefits of proper data mining are increases in both efficiency and client satisfaction. Knowing how consumers act and what they do can help employees better service them, while also decreasing time spent in areas that aren’t as productive. In health care, a good example of this is the mining of Medicaid data by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Officials from this agency decided that they were spending too much money on certain payments, and worked with Xerox to properly analyze the information they had been collecting for some time. This mining proved fruitful in many areas, but the most important one was emergency room visits. The analysis revealed that there was a sizeable portion of Medicaid patients that were going to the ER more than 10 times per year, according to Healthcare IT News contributor Erin McCann.

ER doctors are very busy and don't have time to deal with repeat visitors. Having too many people in the ER is a waste of time and resources.

Two or three trips to the ER is just a bad year, but more than 10 visits means that something has gone wrong. This prompted Wyoming Medicaid employees to call these patients, verifying their status and taking steps to increase their level of personal care at home. The state also instituted a 24/7 nurse hotline to allow Medicaid patients to call in for medical help rather than going to the hospital. This enabled Wyoming to lower the costs of Medicaid ER visits by more than 20 percent, showing just how effective proper health care data mining can be.

The human element is the main disadvantage

“One of the biggest snags data mining has run into is human error.”

As it always is with technological innovations, one of the biggest snags data mining has run into is human error. Something as simple as accidentally including an extra data set due to sleep deprivation can have a major impact on the usefulness of the analysis. In fact, this problem is so apparent that an entire scientific paper sponsored by the Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society was written on the subject.

The report – which was co-authored by Cheng-Jhe Lin, Changxu Wu and Wanpracha A. Chaovalitwongse – stated that researchers wishing to do away with human error must take a two-pronged approach. First, officials must take a top-down approach for implementing behavior modeling. These administrators must show employees what is expected of them if they ever hope to properly mine data. After this, analysts must take a bottom-up approach in order to determine who is making the most errors, as well as how many mistakes each person will most likely make in the future.

Data mining may have some hurdles to overcome in terms of human error, but this certainly won’t stop the process from continuing to work its way into health care. The medical industry is all about efficiency, and proper analysis of big data sets can help doctors and nurses improve patient care. What’s more, as the Wyoming Medicaid example shows, data mining can also help administrators determine where resources and time are being wasted, therefore giving them the ability to make changes to improve overall productivity.

Office 365 and the value of cloud-based solutions

Microsoft’s Office 365 has made a huge splash within business IT. In fact, a study from security firm Bitglass found the service to hold 25.2 percent of the enterprise market in 2015, which was a 300 percent increase over the previous year. This even beat out Google Apps, hoisting Office 365 above the competition and showing just how valuable this solution is.

That said, many organizations are hesitant to make the switch to cloud-based platforms for a number of reasons. To that end, we’d like to dispel some rumors about Office 365 and get to the heart of what makes this service great.

Cloud-based solutions make sense for multiple verticals

“The cloud’s many advantages simply cannot be ignored.”

The cloud’s many advantages simply cannot be ignored at this point. The technology’s ability to increase innovation and flexibility while also keeping costs low is an incredibly central part of its selling point. In fact, Matthew McClelland of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has stated that these exact reasons were the drivers behind his organization’s switch to Office 365.

“We were often stuck in the old way of doing IT,” said McClelland, who is the manager of the information governance office at BCBSNC. “Slow waterfall-style projects that took a lot of time to roll stuff out. When you add up the cost of everyone’s time, impact to our operations, the impact on the day-to-day work of users, it’s expensive.”

Of course, health care isn’t the only sector seeing the benefits of cloud-based solutions like Office 365. Fortune quoted Curt Kolcun of Microsoft as saying that the number of Microsoft Cloud for Government users is around 5.2 million, which includes Office 365 as well as other cloud services.

Regulatory compliance is a must

Of course, many sectors have more to worry about than cost and flexibility. Regulatory standards, such as those imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, come down hard on institutions that can’t follow the rules. In fact, a violation of HIPAA carries a maximum annual penalty of $1.5 million.

HIPAA has strict rules. Violating HIPAA could result in massive fines.

Again, this is where Office 365 shines. McClelland also reported that HIPAA used to be a “hurdle” for medical cloud migrations. However, Office 365 is now HIPAA-compliant, ensuring McClelland’s organization stays on the right side of the law.

ISG Technology can help with your transition

While Office 365 clearly has many benefits for all kinds of institutions, making the transition can sometimes be difficult. To that end, it makes sense to partner with an experienced company that knows all about what a move to the cloud means for an organization. ISG Technology is more than happy to be that partner for you.

Our trained professionals have the experience necessary to help you navigate the tricky waters of transition, both in terms of overall cost and regulatory standards. We know how important this move is to you, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Contact an ISG Technology representative today and find out what your organization can get out of Office 365.