Top 5 Questions every CEO must ask their IT team

Top 5 Questions every CEO must ask their IT team


Board-of-DirectorsCEOs and company executives are ultimately accountable for safeguarding their organization’s long-term security, which helps mitigate cyber risks. As executives become more aware of risk and security management, they ask increasingly nuanced and complicated leaders questions. At the board level, interest in security and risk management (SRM) is at an all-time high. In Gartner’s security and risk survey in 2019, four out of five respondents stated that security risk influences board decisions.

The Gartner research assists security and risk management leaders analyze five types of questions that they should be prepared to answer at any executive or board-level meeting. Here are those questions.

  • The Trade-Off Question
  • The Landscape Question
  • The Risk Question
  • The Performance Question
  • The Incident Question
  • Decipher Complex Board Questions

Let’s discuss each of these in detail.


1. The Trade-Off Question_ Are we 100% secure? 

The trade-off question is that the security and management risk leaders struggle greatly. The question “Are we secure?” needs improvising and is generally asked by the executives who are uneducated and unaware of the impact of security risks on the business. It is impossible to prohibit 100% of the incidents in this scenario. The CISO’s responsibility is to help identify and evaluate the potential risks for an organization and allocate resources to manage them.

According to Gartner’s report, a security and risk management leader, in response to this question, might say, “It is impossible to remove all resources of the information risk considering the evolving nature of the cyber threat landscape. My responsibility is to work with other aspects of the business to execute controls for managing security risks that can prevent us from improving operational efficiency and brand image. There is no such thing as ‘perfect protection’ in security. We have to reassess continually how much risk is appropriate as the business grows. We aim to develop a sustainable program to balance the requirements to protect against the needs to run a business”.


2. The Landscape Question_ How bad is it out there?

Most executives want to know their security compared to peer organizations. They read threat reports and blogs, listen to the broadcast, and even are forced by the regulation to understand such things. Gartner recognizes the need to discuss this landscape. Leaders need to avoid trying to quantify risks and attach specific budget figures to the mitigation cost depending on something external. Moreover, when benchmarks give some material for conversation, they must be a negligible factor in the decision-making process.

Here are some responses that security and risk management leaders can give while discussing the broader security landscape.

External Events Responses
Our primary competitor experienced a public, successful attack.
  • We have a similar vulnerability that can facilitate the attack, addressing that weakness.
  • Enhanced monitoring abilities have been implemented.
There are more attacks against the electricity grids in three national presence points.
  • We don’t expect to become a direct target.
  • Business continuity plans are being tested and updated to overcome the prolonged outage.
We fall under the scope of the new EU General Data Protection requirements.
  • We have conservative and cautious privacy practices in place.
  1. 3. The Risk Question_ Do we know what our risks are?

Board-of-Directors 1A risk outside the tolerance needs an antidote to bring it within tolerance. It does not require dramatic changes in a short time, so beware of overreacting. The Gartner report presents a way to defend the risk management decision, and you can change it according to your organization’s risk tolerance.

One of the most common issues encountered in the report is that the evaluations are subjective and depend on flawed methodology. Security leaders must have evidence to support the evaluation, even when they are not called to present it. Another aspect that needs to be considered is whether to depict the typical outcome or the worst. For instance, most incidents in favorable outcomes are within the ability of most companies to absorb. However, there is an infrequent incident that can result in a catastrophic effect.

4. The Performance Question_ Are we appropriately allocating resources?

Security is always a moving target. The security team must demonstrate their behavior to ensure the organization stays safe. It is essential to figure out if the resources are allocated appropriately and where the money is spent. The original strategy proposal should have margins for errors concerning the deadline and the budget. As far as there are overruns within these margins, they must be noncontroversial.

There may be valid reasons even if the overruns are outside the margins. The balanced scorecard approach is a way to understand how security contributes to business performance. In this approach, the top layer defines the business aspiration, and organization performance against those aspirations is expressed using a traffic light mechanism. However, it’s not the only way. Some organizations have different types of dashboards to discuss business performance.

5. The Incident Question_ How did this happen?

An incident is unavoidable, and treatment is a blessing in disguise. Security and risk management leaders should be aware that incident details may have been tightly controlled (such as sensitivities associated with the incident). Using the fact-based approach and explaining your knowledge will eliminate the mystery and give confidence that you have control over the incident. Acknowledging the incident provides details on the business impact, outlines the flaws or gaps needed to work out, and offers a mitigation plan.


Decipher Complex Board Question

There are usually no deterministic answers to the board question, and responses are generally more about showing options for sponsorship instead of a definitive course of action. The options can vary based on the context of the discussion, the board’s maturity, the SRM leader’s communication skills, and reporting frequency. However, understanding and answering board questions require everyone to understand their roles. Therefore, the SRM leader should know that the board is interested in facilitating the business goal.  Any query that may seem immature, ignorant, or complicated has a purpose. Here’s why every executive should understand the basics of cybersecurity.

As we move further into this Digital Age, it’s important for security and risk management leaders to be at the forefront of protection. Unfortunately, there will always be new threats that emerge and risks to manage. However, there are a variety of technologies and strategies that can help reduce the number of incidents and their severity. These include: reviewing third-party vendors, dual-authorization systems, unstructured data protectors, and big data analytics. As long as companies take a proactive approach to their cybersecurity efforts, they will be prepared when potential threats arise, making the job of SRMs much easier.

Ultimately, the complexity of risk management systems makes it impractical for organizations of every size to create their own. Instead, a renowned solution like Protected Harbor is needed. One that can provide the solutions necessary to resolve your company’s unique needs, with a broad suite of capabilities and an intuitive platform that provides users with the tools needed to respond effectively when crises strike. Because we understand your business and what executives desire, we’ve been assisting several executives with their day-to-day operations. Contact us today for a free IT and cybersecurity audit, take charge of your future, and be cybersecured.

IT lessons learned from the Covid-19 outbreak

IT lessons learned from the Covid-19 outbreak

The Covid-19 pandemic transformed the IT industry beyond the thoughts of our economies and societies.

It’s the end of the year 2021, and the world is still recuperating from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis that significantly impacted the technology sector. The Pandemic fluctuated the supply chain technology and came as an unusual shock.

The crisis transformed the lives of people around the globe digitally. We started being more dependent on technology than exposed. Now it’s almost two years, and the technology adoption we have seen is revolutionary.

At the pandemic’s beginning, companies opted for temporary solutions for their work and operations. A few months later, it was transparent businesses would need to find new ways to adapt for the long term. This started a rise in digitizing workplace applications and operations.

A recent pandemic news report by Mckinsey concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic brought about years of technology change and innovation in just a few months. Customer relationships and supply chains have been digitized, and internal operations have been moved to the cloud three to four years early. In the last few years, companies have multiplied their digitally enabled products in their portfolio by sevenfold.


Potential long-term impact on the technology sector

  • Forecasts indicate that cloud infrastructure services and specialized software will be in demand. As organizations motivate employees to work from home, the telecom services and communications equipment market is also anticipated.
  • IT departments and solution providers will play a more significant role in transforming businesses to digital. The need for reliable, secure, and flexible network systems is evident.
  • Demand for cybersecurity software will increase 37% as companies need to secure endpoints, particularly from employees working from home on less-than-ideally secure Wi-Fi. With the increase in report work came a massive increase in attacks. Attacks from home computers connected over VPN are difficult to stop because a VPN is a trusted connection. Still, computers at home, even company computers, are difficult to keep clean from viruses and attacks when there are no corporate firewalls or other layers of protection.
  • It’s proven that most employees would continue working from home even after restrictions are lifted. During the pandemic, we saw a productivity improvement. Studies show that during COVID, people worked more hours than they previously did when they worked in the office. The organizations must see this as a long-term impact and invest in creating a digitally sustainable environment. Read more here.


Practical next steps

Organizations across the country and from every industry reported a significant increase in customers’ and employees’ needs and remote working. We also saw a rise in advanced AI technologies in operations and business decision-making. Services such as DaaS, ransomware protection, and data centers are most likely to stay in the long term. After living through the impact of Covid-19 on technology and business, CIOs will be defined by their ability to respond, recover, and thrive.

Here are some practical next steps to make your business pandemic proof

  • The rise in remote work and co-working spaces will push the need for Remote Desktops (RDP) so employees can take their desktop images of apps, documents, and folders anywhere. Therefore developing a budget for technology improvement and implementation to prepare your company for the future sounds like a plan.
  • With a rise of remote workers comes a drop in in-office workers. Companies will be able to save on office space costs. The reduction in real estate also allows companies to reduce their hardware profile by switching from on-prem to off-prem servers and hosting. Besides saving physical space, off-premise servers are also secured and maintained by the provider.
  • Flexibility is the key to innovation and understanding how disruptions can be minimized in future events. Because the shift will have long-term ramifications that no one can foresee, custom networking and server hosting are critical to gain the flexibility your company needs for whatever comes next.
  • In the future, we will see a digitally enabled work environment and advanced tools for business processes, including back-end office functions. The Tech boom has advanced all technology integrations such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Adapt and make use of technology for an edge over the competition.
  • One of the most important steps is to make your infrastructure and technology sustainable and focus on mental health during pandemic. Because going digital is a new normal now, we are moving towards a highly technology-driven environment. Businesses have to be agile, which means understanding, changing, and adapting quickly to the environment. Consider a solution provider who spends time understanding your needs and provides customized solutions.
  • If you are ready to migrate your data and applications to a protected cloud network and still own your data, you need to look past a traditional MSP and find a Managed IT infrastructure and design partner.


Take the final step

Post Covid-19 business IT priorities have changed. More than half of the business leaders say they invest in digitization and technology for competitive advantage, creating the entire business strategy. The needs of customers and your employees have become more digital, and as an organization, you must ensure the best of the services.

Remote work is no longer a culture of experimentation; it is a culture of necessity. The companies that invested in cloud technologies and figured out how to fit remote work into their processes were rewarded because the small work culture is here to stay long-term.

With businesses moving to virtual and cloud servers, it’s wise to opt for reliable, flexible, and secured data centers. And what’s even more brilliant is to take the help of one of the industry experts. Protected Harbor works with businesses to create personalized solutions. We keep your data on our internal servers with 99.99% uptime and 24×7 monitoring, ensuring you don’t crash and your team stays working. Remote work has left businesses vulnerable to malware and ransomware.

All Protected Harbor solutions employ custom-solution cyber security protocols to protect your business and your data. We made extra investments into air-gapped servers and triple-backed-up images, so your information is always on and always protected. Does your managed IT provider do that?

Best IT Solution: Solution Providers, VARs or MSPs?

Best IT Solution: Solution Providers, VARs or MSPs?

If you’re looking for an IT Service for your business, you have probably been innodated with acronyms, like VARs, MSP, ASP, NSP, CSP, ISP, SAAS and DAAS. One almost needs a CIA code-breaker to determine which solution does what and what solution is best for their business. Worse, many “wannabe” IT companies make the same promises but fall short on delivery.

There are many IT solutions available, ranging from cyber security, and inventory management to cloud services, and they are provided by IT solution providers, Value-Added Resellers (VARs), and Managed Service Providers (MSPs).


What Do They Offer?

IT solution providers sell specific solutions for specific problems. If your computer is infected, they provide you with an antivirus. Whereas VARs will sell you that same product, bundled with extra software. For example, VARS would offer an antivirus solution paired with a spam filter and backup service.

MSPs allow clients to rent software solutions through the cloud. Where IT solution providers and VARs will sell you software to fix an issue, MSPs will also proactively manage it for you. MSPs roll their sleeves up to control a client’s IT infrastructure and systems. This could include software applications and networks through security and day-to-day support.


It seems simple. Where’s the problem?

Most IT solution providers and VARs deliver one-size-fits-all solutions to their clients. Pre-packaged solutions are designed to interest the broadest audience. Due to supply contracts, providers are forced to push identical solutions and charge a mark-up. Occasionally they may offer consulting services or monitoring for even more money. From the client’s perspective, these pre-bundled solutions look the same but are less than ideal.

IT solution providers and VARs offer software, not services, where customer experience matters. They can all respond to a customer’s complaints and requests quickly. But responding to an email is not a customer experience. Instead, a company must perceive the needs and goals of the customer. IT solution providers and VARs are constricted by the software they are selling. So, they have finite customization to cover all of a customer’s needs. Such issues will leave customers with unresolved problems to be covered by other products for another cost. Or customers end up overpaying for functionality they don’t need because of a predetermined bundle.

This is where MSPs stand out. Thanks to the internet, MSPs can offer specific services and functionality, a-la-cart. They are not forced into particular solutions and offer actual customizations. Also, MSPs are in the service business. Their business model requires a long-standing relationship. The more problems customers have, the more problems MSPs have. Hence, it’s of utmost importance for MSPs to listen, evaluate, and tailor-make solutions to keep clients happy for as long as possible.


How It Should Be?

In today’s business environment, it is more important than ever to deliver the best customer experience possible. Customers should feel a connection with their service providers. And feel comfortable leaving a vital part of the business in the provider’s hands. The more feedback you get, the better your business can deliver a superior service. It’s as simple as that.

Steer away from IT solution providers who won’t spend time listening to your problems. A reliable managed service provider will design a customized plan covering all aspects of your IT needs. Such as protecting from ransomware and data losses, with the needed antivirus software. They will handle everything from scratch through finalization and ongoing support.

Consider a solution provider willing to spend time getting to know you and your business. A provider who asks questions and interviews you is more likely to design a lasting solution addressing your needs. The perfect IT solution will be tailored to suit your business, empowering you to fulfill and exceed your goals.

At Protected Harbor, we listen to our clients; we consider them our partners and are here to delight them. All of our Technology Improvement Plans (TIP) work on the 3A principle- Attend, Assess and Apply. We listen to customers’ problems, match them to our ability, and provide a solution explicitly crafted for them. This is how we have built long-term relationships with our customers.

With Protected Harbor, you can expect superior system performance and uptime. We specialize in remote desktops, data breach protection, secure servers, application outage avoidance, system monitoring, network firewalls, and cloud services. For quality IT solutions, contact Protected Harbor today.

The Reasons Application Fails

reasons application fails


99.99% Uptime Is Essential

In today’s modern world of Tele-Medicine, application availability and uptime is more critical than ever.

Healthcare workers and patients are accessing applications at all times of the day and night. The days of “bringing the application down for maintenance” every night are over.

Add to this the fact that most healthcare companies are growing, which adds extra load to these already stressed applications.

EMR and other key applications need to be available virtually 100% of the time.

application error result business loss

How Much Does A Single Hour Of Downtime Cost?

According to an ITIC study this year, the average amount of a single hour of downtime is $100,000 or more. Since 2008, ITIC has sent out independent surveys that measure downtime costs. Findings included that a single hour of downtime has risen by 25%-30%. 33% of those enterprises reported that one hour of downtime costs their companies between $1-5 million. 98% of organizations say a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000. 81% of respondents indicated that 60 minutes of downtime costs their businesses over $300,000.

Protected Harbor has found the design of data centers plays an essential role in its ability to maintain application availability which translates into company credibility with clients, employees, and ultimately dollars gained or lost.

The purpose of this white paper is to outline the top five mistakes companies make when designing, building, and managing data centers.

cost of datacenter downtime

“It’s Much Harder To Manage A Data Center For A Growing Business Than One For A Stagnant Business.”

“This saying has stuck with me over the years. Most of the businesses my company supports are growing companies. They trust I can design, build and manage a data center that will develop with them, and not impede on their growth.

According to a recent article by a top data center management company, only 4% of data center failures are due to IT equipment failure. Only 4%! That leaves 96% of data center failures caused by things outside of your data center equipment, whether it be power failure, cyber-crime, human error, or water/heat.

What does this mean for you? Well, at the inception of designing your Data Center elements that may seem to be innocuous must be considered because these components could have a significant impact on how your data center functions – or doesn’t function. Regardless of whether you are building a data center or migrating, it is imperative that you avoid falling into the traps that have ensnared many before you.

Protected Harbor has enough experience with all the above issues to understand how crippling they can be for small, medium and large organizations. Data centers popularity has increased exponentially over the past decade, and for good reason. They enable a business to expand, while being cost effective and reliable. Recently, a client asked us to list the common mistakes companies make when designing, building and managing their data centers. When compiling this list, we break these mistakes into three major categories; People, Processes and Tools. If you are about to embark down the data center path, make sure you don’t tumble into these pitfalls and wind up in a state of confusion and chaos.”

“It’s much harder to manage a data center for a growing business than one for a stagnant business.
Richard Luna
– CEO, Protected Harbor


Five Mistakes Companies Make That Cause Applications To Fail

PEOPLE: Organizing IT Staff in Vertical Roles vs. Horizontal Roles
Human error accounts for almost one quarter of all data center outages

We believe this has a lot to do with how IT staff is organized at most companies. IT staffs will have DBA’s (both development and production), programmers specific to one system, networking experts, and storage experts, etc. This level of specialization can be a big problem.

In many organizations, managers develop elaborate handoff processes that are confusing and often not followed. The programmer hands off the work to the database expert, who then hands off to the storage person. Often, there is no manager, who understands the big picture, until you get to either an IT Director or the CIO, who is too senior and removed from details to provide real direction. IT staffs lose the ability to view the system horizontally (and holistically), to understand the big picture. Often, steps are missed, mistakes are made, and when the data center crashes, groups point fingers at other groups and the true cause of the outage is not determined, which means it could happen again.

We recommend assigning IT process owners, meaning – IT staff members who are responsible for managing IT processes. These individuals first document the process and then put in end-to-end controls to ensure those processes are followed.


Inadequate Redundancy

TOOLS: Power issues, including issues with the UPS or generator, and other environmental issues, account for over 45% of data center outages

The IT team may understand the need for redundancy but fail to carry it through the entire system. Often, they will ensure redundancy in one network layer (or portion of the system for communicating data). However, the operational stability of the data center requires that multiple networking layers be on-line, all the time.

In other words, each layer needs to be redundant. For hardware, that means two mirrored firewalls, two drops, and two core mirrored switches. For software, this means multiple servers performing the same function configured in a primary secondary or in a pool configuration. If a server fails, the workload is migrated or transferred to a redundant server. We allow for redundancy at every level.


System Software Not Directly Connected To The Firewalls

TOOLS: Cyber-crime accounts for over 20% of data center outages

Any data center needs to be worried about external vulnerability to attacks. Companies can buy a high-end firewall package that does advance monitoring. But what happens behind that firewall? Most companies fail to understand the importance of connecting software login to firewall activity. For example, if the organization has RDP servers that cannot determine a legitimate log-in from an invalid log-in, how do you block it? This isn’t done automatically, because many of the individual apps being used are customized.

The best approach to this problem is to avoid it—design the system the right way, at its inception. For example, deploying a module that after three failed login attempts into a particular app blocks that IP address right at the firewall.


Data System Growth Not Sufficiently Considered In Budgeting

PROCESS: Many data centers crash because the data center environment was designed and built for a smaller organization, and cannot handle the increase in load due to company growth.

Many industries and companies see periods of rapid growth, and try to do their best to predict how that might affect operational needs, like sales, marketing, and manufacturing. However, IT often gets left behind in the budgeting dust, and the result is underfunding and an inability of the IT systems or data center capabilities to match the expectations of the rest of the organization.

Typically, this underfunding leads to attempts to cannibalize equipment, exceed their recommended capacities, and go beyond their expected lifespans. It often causes IT staff to find quick fixes to keep the data center operational. Regarding these quick fixes, we often observe a related error: The IT staff forget to remove the bandages that got them past isolated problems. This results in a lost opportunity to go back and properly resolve the underlying problem. There’s just no resources available to do it.

We recommend the IT leader work closely with his/her company’s leadership team to understand business trends, and works with IT experts to design a data center environment that can grow with the organization. Just like leaders of other departments, the IT leader needs to outline key IT investments that will be needed if the company grows. If a company’s core competence is healthcare, they may not want to be in the data center management business.


Not Having Clearly Written Procedures, Designated Lines Of Authority, And As A Result, Accountability

PROCESS:  When completing a new deployment, the people who understand the system and the way it was designed should compile the procedural manual for how to handle isolated issues, maintenance, and system-wide failures. This should also include lines of authority, which defines areas of responsibility. Only once these are delineated, can one expect accountability of the individuals on the IT team. Too often, organizations are barely organized, and these vital documents do not exist (or staff are unaware of their existence).

We recommend that procedures are created, documented, and followed in a specified way, guiding appropriate deployment of IT assets. Clearly stated lines of authority are required to make it work.

We Are Here to Help!

If you are an IT executive, director or decision maker and are concerned you company is falling prey to any of the aforementioned problems, let Protected Harbor help you navigate through them by implementing a comprehensive, secure and durable strategy.

Protected Harbor is an MSP that helps organizations and businesses across the US address their current IT needs by building them secure, custom and protected long term solutions.  Our unique technology experts evaluate current systems, determine the deficiencies and design cost-effective options.  We assist all IT departments by increasing their security, durability and sustainability, thus freeing them up to concentrate on their daily workloads.  Protected Harbor stands tall in the face of cyberattacks,  human error, technical failure and compliance issues.

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