Systems Lessons To Learn From Core Strength for Cyclists

I like to bike and have biked for years. Anyone that bikes seriously will tell you how important one’s core strength is for performance and endurance. I’ve not seen a better group of core strength exercises than these from Tom Danielson and Allison Westfahl from their book, Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge.

So, I decided to create this page to use as a visual workout guide. Since one video is worth thousands of words, check out the example from youtube.

You can grab a copy of Tom and Allison’s great book from Amazon.

What does core strength have to do with computer and network systems, you ask? If you want your systems to endure over time and perform at a top level, develop strength in your core systems management practices. Use high quality systems monitoring, state of the art mobility management and best practices driven systems management. One can accomplish all of that, even with disparate systems located in your office and in the cloud. If you’re wondering how, contact me.

Posted in Business Systems Support Cycling by Les Murphy. No Comments

Utilize Systems Monitoring To Meet HIPAA Requirements

nurse computerAll systems monitoring should be configured to facilitate HIPPA compliance. However, the first step dictates that one deploys systems monitoring to all devices resident on the health care providers’ network. This often forgotten area of technology management needs illuminating to help bring some order and methodology to deploying activities that keep your medical enterprise fully HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA Security Rules specifically outline US national security standards to protect health data created, received, maintained or transmitted electronically, also known as electronic protected health information (ePHI). The HIPAA Security Rules are divided into 3 distinct categories and below is a summary of each.

  • Administrative Safeguards. This section of the HIPAA security requirements is focused upon establishing a risk analysis process, with periodic reviews, assigning security management responsibilities, formulating security policies and procedures and establishing appropriate workforce security training.
  • Physical Safeguards. This section of the HIPAA security requirements is focused upon securely controlling physical access: to data processing facilities, workstations and devices as well as physical media which contains PHI (personal health information).
  • Technical Safeguards. This section of the HIPAA security requirements is focused upon establishing specific technical security controls which aim to protect PHI via the following key aspects: data access control, data & access auditing, integrity and transmission security.

Below is a detailed description of each HIPAA related configuration item and the required guidance towards a HIPAA compliant configuration. As per the HIPAA requirements, for items listed as Addressable the entity must perform one of the 3 options: 1) Implement the required control as stated 2) Implement an alternative control which meets the intent of the original control 3) If implementing either, they must document the technical and or business constraint which prevents them from doing so. For items listed as “Required” the entity is required to implement this control as stated.

164.308(a)(3)(ii)(C) – Terminating Access

Addressable

Have you implemented procedures for terminating access to EPHI when an employee leaves your organization or as required by paragraph (a)(3)(ii)(B) of this section?

» Recommendation: Utilize the systems monitoring dashboard to remotely remove terminated employees from all in-scope EPHI related systems.

164.308(a)(5)(ii)(A) – Security Reminders

Addressable

Do you provide periodic information security reminders?

» Recommendation: Utilize systems monitoring to push periodic reminders to the in-scope workstations.

164.308(a)(5)(ii)(B) – Malicious Software

Addressable

Do you have policies and procedures for guarding against, detecting, and reporting malicious software?

» Recommendation: systems monitoring provides managed antivirus services that guard, detect and report against malicious software.

164.308(a)(5)(ii)(C) – Monitoring Login’s

Addressable

Do you have procedures for monitoring login attempts and reporting discrepancies?

» Recommendation: Utilizing the systems monitoring dashboard, develop procedures to periodically review audit logs and login attempts.

164.308(a)(5)(ii)(D) – Password Management

Addressable

Do you have procedures for creating, changing, and safeguarding passwords?

» Recommendation: Via the centralized management capabilities of the systems monitoring dashboard, develop procedures to create, change and safeguard passwords.

164.312(a)(2)(i) – User Identity

Required

Have you assigned a unique name and/or number for identifying and tracking user identity?

» Recommendation: systems monitoring requires each user ID to be unique and tracks activity according to such. Further, ensure there are no shared user accounts within the client environments you manage.

164.312(a)(2)(iii) – Inactive Sessions

Addressable

Have you implemented procedures that terminate an electronic session after a predetermined time of inactivity?

» Recommendation: systems monitoring automatically times out inactive user sessions.

164.312(a)(2)(iv) – Encrypting EPHI Data

Addressable

Have you implemented a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt EPHI?

» Recommendation: systems monitoring mail automatically and transparently encrypts all mail archives with secure AES 256bit encryption, thereby protecting any EPHI information potentially contained within the archive.

164.312(b)(2) – Audit Reporting

Required

Have you implemented Audit Controls, hardware, software, and/or procedural mechanisms that record and examine activity in information systems that contain or use EPHI?

» Recommendation: User audit reports are dynamically generated by default and can be accessed at any time via the systems monitoring dashboard. Develop procedures to periodically review and investigate any discrepancies.

164.312(d) – Authentication to EPHI Data

Required

Have you implemented Person or Entity Authentication procedures to verify that a person or entity seeking access EPHI is the one claimed?

» Recommendation: Consult with your client and determine the appropriate level of security. Upon such, implement strong password authentication & for further security, configure the systems monitoring dashboard to validate source IP addresses.

164.312(e)(2)(ii) – Encrypt EPHI Data in Transit

Addressable

Have you implemented a mechanism to encrypt EPHI whenever deemed appropriate?

» Recommendation: Configure systems monitoring mail to only transmit email traffic via IMAPS (IMAP over SSL) as this will securely encrypt and protect EPHI transmitted via email over the Internet.

Dropbox Tops Inc’s List of Top 10 Apps Banned in the Office

imaInc Magazine recently included Dropbox in their list of top 10 apps banned in the office. That’s because, while it’s a valuable productivity tool, users aren’t usually aware of the security and control risks that it introduces.

If you’re having Dropbox issues, consider SecuriSync. It offers file sync and share that both employees and administrators will love. That’s because it’s built to meet both their needs, with easy file syncing and sharing that’s balanced by full admin control and direct integration. Contact me to learn more about SecuriSync, Exchange Mail and Hosted Telephone Systems.

QuickBooks Virtual Server

I install a lot of software, sometimes on a very large scale. My software installation best practice requires that anytime I install software for a client, I review release notes and minimum systems requirements from the software manufacturer. It’s not uncommon that major changes occur between version updates that will impact an installation that I’m doing.

Recently, I encountered a situation that challenged my default server installation methodology to the core. This challenge will prove to impact the way I look at QuickBooks in the future.

My server installation best practice requires me to consider virtualizing any server environment before I consider using a physical server. Virtual technologies integrated with RAID storage arrays are mature and as common as Ford trucks. Only a few architectural instances dictate a physical server; an on site domain controller and a network fax server using multi port pots lines come to mind.

My back up and disaster methodology depends upon continual data protection, continually writing an updated virtual server image to local and offsite storage. CDP is pretty much the norm in the industry today.

My most recent QuickBooks installation environment revolved around the role Remote Desktop Services plays in reducing costs and increasing manageability. It’s almost a no brainer to build a  thirty user QuickBooks Enterprise 13 set up with Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services on top of VMware, using Acronis to write a virtual image into a datacenter. However, QuickBooks release notes and latest system requirements stopped me dead in my tracks.

First, I came upon QuickBooks system requirements and Intuit’s concept of “natively installed” splattered all over the Intuit QuickBooks Support Systems Requirements page. I had not seen these requirements in the past. Check these out:

System requirements for QuickBooks 2013 and Enterprise Solutions 13.0  Native Installed

Apparently, Intuit does not recommend or support QuickBooks installation on a virtual server. An IT person might say, “so what.” My experience tells me that only a fool will run a large QuickBooks environment without a yearly Intuit QuickBooks Support Contract. There are always reasons to get Intuit’s assistance to keep your QuickBooks operational.

Secondly, if the failure to support QuickBooks installed on a virtual server is not bad enough, Intuit states that “QuickBooks will work with systems running RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) but this is not recommended because performance issues may cause QuickBooks to operate slowly.”

Essentially, Intuit prefers that the two pillars of server technology, virtualization and RAID be completely avoided, to the extent that Intuit will not support you if you deploy virtualization and RAID. This strikes me as a large problem or a great opportunity.

How might this situation effect you?

Cloud Resources Offer Profound Advantages

dcJim Ditmore recently published an excellent article over at Information Week titled "Hard Truths About Cloud Differences" where he clearly articulates the necessity for medium to large sized company business people to understand the differences in cloud computing approaches and pitfalls.

Try as I might, I find it very difficult to articulate business need in the language of cloud computing folks. So, I tend to look at the most cost effective solution to achieve an end. Fortunately, cloud computing resources fit my requirements nicely, facilitating me to speak in terms of growth and performance.

For you to achieve a robust and scalable business, partner with competent highly skilled people that get the details and understand the pitfalls. Jim Ditmore does a great job spelling out the pitfalls of cloud computing in his article.

Be very cautious if it’s a core business functionality. You could be locking away your differentiation and ultimate competitiveness.

Before you sign the contract, know how you will get your data back should you stop using the SaaS application.

Make sure you have ensured the integrity and security of your data in the application vendor’s hands.

Understand where the product is in its lifecycle (older products might not provide lasting benefits).

Anticipate the eventual migration path as the product fades at the end of its cycle

From a technical perspective, details make or break any IT environment, especially when utilizing cloud resources. Something as simple as when to have physical assets inside a business facility correctly mated with cloud resources can severely impact any business.

Wrapping my head around the details pays big dividends, as my business runs using cloud resources, freeing me to operate more effectively.

I’m forever amazed at how far we’ve come in twenty years. I would have never imagined doing business the way I do business today. Utilizing cloud resources results in increased customer service, a high level of customer satisfaction and much improved operations manageability.

In spite of difficult deployment and integration, cloud resources offer profound advantages;

Reduced Cost: Cloud technology is paid incrementally, saving organizations money.

Increased Storage: Organizations can store more data than on private computer systems.

Highly Automated: No longer do IT personnel need to worry about keeping software up to date.

Flexibility: Cloud computing offers much more flexibility than past computing methods.

More Mobility: Employees can access information wherever they are, rather than having to remain at their desks.

Allows IT to Shift Focus: Organizations no longer have to worry about constant server updates and other computing issues; they are free to concentrate on innovation.

If computing performance and business growth interest you, lets continue the conversation.

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