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  • 02/28/2022 4:25 PM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    By Shawn Waldman – CEO – Secure Cyber Defense, Miamisburg, OH

    I've been in technology for over 25 years, and one of the first things I did in 2009 when Cybersecurity was becoming a thing was to have an external firm evaluate my program. Considering that I didn't have a program back then, the results were very enlightening. I hired a firm that could look at me through a completely different set of eyes. They didn't know my company or me and came at the task differently. 

    Let's look at some of the many reasons you would want to have this done. 

    Insurance

    First and foremost, we're seeing that many insurance carriers are explicitly asking you to have a 3rd party assessment to renew or obtain coverage. Unfortunately, this leaves the door open for interpretation of how the evaluation is carried out. We recommend using many mainstream compliance frameworks like the CIS Top 18 Controls, NIST 800-171, or the National Cybersecurity Framework. Depending on the maturity of your organization, you might also want to investigate the ISO 27000 set of standards.

    Risk Management

    When I'm talking to potential clients, one of the first things I usually talk about is that no business owner will decide about a significant move in just about anything without having good intelligence and information to support the action. Quite frankly, many company executives and managers are completely unaware of the Cybersecurity risk that might be present. A considerable benefit of the assessment process is that a seasoned and experienced assessor can pivot from the interview and look more profound for risk. What's the most common way risk makes its way into an organization? Change.

    Getting a Fresh Look

    Sometimes, it's just nice to get a second set of eyes on things to see if anything is missed or a different way of doing things. A natural reaction is to resist the need for an assessment because it can be seen as a threat or a sign of distrust. Quite the contrary, actually, in the over ten years I've been doing 3rd party assessments, I can only count on one hand the number of times that someone took it that way. Most companies and IT staff welcome a second set of eyes, especially with Cybersecurity, since most IT staff don't want to take on that expertise.

    Compliance Requirements

    Maybe your organization is required to maintain a certification or requirement for you to perform a contract or business with a customer. In this example, CMMC/DFARS/NIST is a perfect model. Since before the requirements were ratified, Secure Cyber Defense has performed pre-assessment work in this area as the customer's advocate. Although the CMMC rules are in flux (recently reduced from 5 levels down to 3), it's important to monitor new contracts for CMMC notification levels. Until then, make sure you work with a trusted provider who can start working with you through the Plan of Action and Milestones (POAM) and help prepare the System Security Plans (SSP). We recommend all defense contractors continue to work on the DFARS/NIST compliance pieces as regardless of what CMMC does, those components will be required for the foreseeable future. 

    Vendors/Customers Request It

    Next on the list, you would want a 3rd Party Cyber assessment because vendors and customers may require it. It's not out of the question, and many of you have already been requested to have an external evaluation to keep those relationships. These requests generally surround the increased push for organizations to keep their 3rd party vendors in check (i.e., CIS Control 15 covering service provider management). It's always good to keep a current external assessment on file; we recommend every year or every other year.

    Light Threat Hunting

    Something that we've been doing since the beginning has been doing what we call "light threat hunting." In the course of our assessment, we provide some threat hunts of known and documented threats (like log4j indicators) and communication with countries currently listed on the Office of Foreign Access Control (OFAC) list. Often, this can be a good indicator of a potential threat or evidence of one in history. As you are searching for 3rd party assessment vendors, I would ask about.

    Blow the Dust Off Your Policies

    The policy is still one of the not-so-glamorous parts of managing an IT Department and a Cybersecurity program. Things like an Incident Response Plan, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity were all things that were not on the priority list year ago. That being said, we've come across many organizations that have policies but haven't been updated for many years. Assessors can look at the guidelines that you do have and provide some feedback on any changes that might need to be made to make them current.

    C-Suite and Boards Take Note

    Executives in the C-Suite and Boards need to note that not having an external look at your organization can often put you in a blind spot. Like I've said previously, it's not a trust issue, and it's the fact that you can get tunnel vision looking at the same things for many years. Like I've said earlier, this happened to me when I was managing IT. Only when I hired an external firm to look at my organization did I learn that there were processes and information I didn't have about new hardware/software solutions available.

    Perform Regular Re-Assessments

    As indicated in this article, we recommend getting regular assessments and rotating through providers at least every other year, much like you would with penetration testing. The idea behind this is that you will get a completely different perspective and process each time you switch vendors.

    In Summary

    This article has spent a lot of time discussing why you would need to hire a firm to perform a 3rd party Cybersecurity assessment, and I've outlined many of the reasons we do them and some of the components that make up our service. Please spend some time interviewing the firm as one of the most valuable assets of an assessor is their background and experience and their ability to inject their years of expertise into your company.

    About Secure Cyber Defense  

    Secure Cyber Defense offers 24/7/365 threat monitoring services, Fortinet hardware, secure email, cybersecurity and compliance consulting, incident response services, and cybersecurity training for businesses and government agencies to protect company data from cyber threats. Offering both installed and "cybersecurity as a service" offerings, we scale custom solutions for any size organization. Secure Cyber Defense is a Premier Fortinet Partner.


  • 01/31/2022 1:57 PM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Mardi Humphreys, Change Agent, Integration Edge

    Tenacity is when we try something, but if it doesn’t work we try different ways to achieve the same goal. Here’s why and how we should develop tenacity on the job.

    Why:

    Tenacity is a hard ability to train, so tenacious employees earn the respect of both their managers and peers. Workers willing to do what is necessary for the business to endure downturns are the ones who get to keep their jobs. Successful people are tenacious. Doing hard things and seeing them through to completion gives us confidence. We develop mental toughness and keep going when others quit. Most people expect Plan A to work every time, but how often does that really happen? There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Let’s be unafraid to go back to a failed Plan A and revise it to make a Plan B, Plan C, or however many letters it takes to overcome the setback. Let’s learn how to not make the same mistake twice. Making new mistakes is much more fun.

    How:

    • Perceive failures as experiments: When we think we’ve spent all our energy and ideas on overcoming our obstacle, let’s give it one more try and change the input to achieve a better outcome. Often, the answer lies just beyond what we think we’re capable of.
    • Set S.M.A.R.T. goals: We’ll filter our responsibilities through them. E.g., if we want to be the team’s SME for JavaScript, how do the tasks on our daily to-do lists get us closer to that goal?
    • Identify a coworker as a friendly rival. We’ll find someone who is competing for the same promotion or the same client, etc., and use her as the bar against which we measure our work. Does she know Excel better than us? We can take an online class (many are free with a library card) to increase our knowledge. I call competing with someone who is on my team “coopetition.” (Think Group Round during Hollywood Week on American Idol). We strive to outperform this person because we admire her success. We can use this as motivational fuel to course correct when we’re struggling. This study says we succeed when our rival succeeds. We can learn from her mistakes as well as build on her successes.
    • Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Let’s hang out with tenacious people: professional groups, friends, family, and people with our job title from other companies. We can also read biographies of tenacious people and study what they did.
    • Tenacious people are comfortable with being uncomfortable. If our fear of failure is holding us back, let’s do something about it. Let’s sift through the symptoms to get to the root. (Journaling may help us see it easier.) Then take baby steps every day to overcome it.

    Tenacity comes through practice. The bad news is, this means facing adversity over and over again. The good (?!) news is, life gives us plenty of adversity to practice with.


  • 01/31/2022 11:56 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

    Robin Poffenberger Support Services Manager, Washington-Centerville Public Library

    Research indicates that people are more likely to use public libraries during childhood, early parenthood, and retirement. Hopefully, some of you have fond memories of attending story time as a child or parent! But what can libraries offer you during the career stage of your life?  

    • Keep up to date with technology and business news using newspapers and magazines, available in both physical and digital editions. Many digital editions are always available, ready to read whenever and wherever you are.  

    • Sharpen and grow your skills to advance your current career or start a new one. Use your library card to access thousands of free video-based trainings via LinkedIn Learning or Udemy on topics ranging from project management to Microsoft 365 Administration. These resources are also a great way for small businesses to develop their employees. 

    • Need statistical information to provide justification for a new project? Statista has over 80,000 topics from over 18,000 sources combined in a single platform.  

    • Our Reference Librarians can assist you in finding free resources including business-oriented databases to create customer lists, develop and gather competitive intelligence, and investigate industries. 

    • Working at an international company? Improve communication with your colleagues by learning a new language using online language systems or mobile apps. 

    • Catch up on new and best-selling business books. Pick up a physical copy using curbside pickup or download an audio copy to your phone and listen while you commute or exercise. 

    Lifelong learning isn’t just about professional development. Studies show that we have fewer new experiences as we age, making time feel like it passes more quickly. Taking time for learning activities during your personal time also provides benefits such as helping your brain stay healthy and expanding your thinking. Libraries can help! 

    • Enlist your friends and family and test your sleuthing skills with digital escape rooms from the comfort of your own home.  

    • Learn new recipes or cooking skills using cookbooks and cooking magazines. Try traditional recipes from around the world using the AtoZ World Food online database or try regional recipes from the U.S. with AtoZ Food America. 

    • Go back in time to research your family tree using genealogy resources such as Ancestry, Fold 3 and HeritageQuest.  

    • Ready to buy a new car or try repairing your own? Check out Consumer Reports for reviews on new vehicles or tackle vehicle maintenance repairs with help from Chilton Library online. 

    • Tackle those intimidating home improvement projects with Home Improvement Reference Center. 

    • Plan your next trip with the help of the library! Get passports and passport photos, foreign language tutorials, travel books and more.  

    • Learn to knit, crochet, scrapbook, decorate cakes and more using CreativeBug, an online video tutorial resource. CreativeBug has thousands of award-winning art and craft video classes taught by recognized designers and artists. 

    If it’s been a while since you visited your local public library, stop in or visit us online to see how we can help you achieve your learning goals. 


  • 01/04/2022 11:28 AM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)

    Scott McCollum, CIO, Sinclair Community College and Chair, Technology First Board of Directors

    Every IT organization has their “table stakes” products for providing security over their infrastructure. These are the products such as anti-virus, firewalls, and mail scanning gateways that have become ubiquitous and a part of every IT department’s budget. Beyond these common products there are other, more capable products that are implemented in order to address other risks that the organization feels are in need of mitigation. In addition to this inventory of products that have been implemented, I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb to say that every organization, regardless of size or the number of products that are used, has a list of products that they feel would improve their security posture. If this truly is the case, then how do organizations ensure that the products on their “wish list” address their most important vulnerabilities, and how do they get approval for increasing their spend for yet another product to eliminate their remaining vulnerabilities?

    Sorry if you thought I had the answer to this most important question. Unfortunately, the number of vulnerabilities in an organization’s infrastructure are numerous and caused by many different factors. Some are due to bugs in the particular software that the organization uses, some are caused by flawed operational procedures of departmental users, and some are due to misconfiguration of systems. My point is that these issues will always exist and we can’t expect our budgets to continually grow to add more security products. In addition to the vastness of areas where vulnerabilities exist, we are faced with ever-tightening budgets that were already hard to justify increases in prior to the world-wide pandemic that has increased technology support costs while decreasing revenues.

    While we can’t eliminate all vulnerabilities, we must identify those vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk for the organization and focus on these areas for process improvements and technology acquisition. In some cases this means repurposing of our resources, due to the lack of being able to justify additional funding. This repurposing can manifest itself in many ways. One way to repurpose resources is to eliminate products that don’t attack the greatest threats or to acquire a new product that provides these capabilities in addition to other unmet needs. Another strategy is to implement unused functionality in products that are already owned, but under-utilized. In addition to repurposing tools, there are also opportunities in many cases to repurpose personnel to focus on security functions and to work on improving processes and managing security products.

    The first step to being able to repurpose your security assets is to take an inventory of your environment for all resources that relate to security. This can be hard to do because there are some products that provide security, which are not exclusively security products, such as Microsoft 365. Once you have a total picture of the security inventory you can understand the security spend for your organization and where you might have an opportunity to repurpose resources. Identifying the risk that each of your products addresses allows you to map your “wish list” of additional security capabilities and determine how you might be able to perform any necessary repurposing before you make that much more difficult attempt to justify new funding.


  • 01/03/2022 1:18 PM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)

    Upskill your workforce with TechCred.

    No matter what industry you work in, technology is having an impact on the future of your business and the nature of your work. TechCred helps Ohioans learn new skills and helps employers build a stronger workforce with the skills needed in a tech-infused economy. Many of these trainings can be completed online!

    The TechCred application opens on January 3, 2022 and will close on January 31, 2022 at 3:00 p.m.

    Businesses applying for TechCred are required to list their Supplier ID Number on the TechCred application. To register as a new supplier or update an existing account with the State of Ohio, visit https://supplier.ohio.gov and follow the prompts until completed. Once this information has been approved, you will receive a ten-digit State of Ohio Supplier ID number.

    Beginning with Round 12 (January 2022), the following changes have been incorporated into the TechCred program:

    • Training for approved credentials must start on or after the Effective Date of the Grant Agreement and must be completed by the End Date of the Grant Agreement. The Effective Date of the Grant Agreement will be the first day of the month immediately following the last application period. Costs incurred by the Applicant prior to an award of eligibility and an executed Grant Agreement is done at the Applicant's risk.
    • TechCed Grant Agreements will be incorporated as part of the TechCred application. Upon receiving an award announcement, awardees will be directed to log into their application to provide an electronic signature certifying and acknowledging the Grant Agreement, Terms and Conditions, and the Program Guidelines.

    https://techcred.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/techcred/apply

  • 01/01/2022 2:19 PM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)

    Mardi Humphreys, Change Agent, Integration Edge

    7. Not having to remember my passwords – Every year about this time I have to either remember (uh, no) or find (ditto) the username and password I created last year for my annual updates (e.g., insurance renewals) and trainings (i.e., don’t ask). Has this prompted me to keep them in a safe place where I can find them once a year? (Again, uh, no.) When I go through the process of changing them, they are so long and involved (e.g., minimum 14 characters, at least one capital letter, at least 16 numbers, at least 11 special characters, etc.) it’s no wonder I fail to remember them or write them down. Luckily in 2022, Passwordless Authentication will become more common.

    6. Virtually trying before buying – Warby Parker already does this to a degree with their virtual try-on app. In 2022, Augmented Reality will allow sellers to create realistic 3D models of their products. Since stores’ fitting rooms are still closed (thanks, COVID), I’m looking forward to finally being able to discern if the back pockets on a pair of trousers are deep enough to hold my phones before purchasing them.

    5. Smaller mobile phone – 2022 will see 5G normalized. This means I can get a smaller (and cheaper) mobile because phone processors and graphics chips will become obsolete. My Spotify playlist will be streamed to my phone as if it’s a video feed. It also means I don’t have to be so quick to buy those trousers I mentioned in #6.

    4. No more colonoscopies – Kohler, Toto, and Google are all working on technology around Smart Toilets. So far, they can monitor health indicators like sugar levels, body temperature, and blood pressure, to name a few. Fingers crossed colonoscopies will soon be extinct.

    3. Becoming a permanent couch potato – by changing his company’s name to Meta and transitioning Facebook to one of its offerings, Mark Zuckerberg is declaring the advent of the metaverse. Defined by Zuckerberg as an embodied internet where you are in the content, not just viewing it, 2022 seems to be the beginning of a totally immersive environment. (Yes, like The Matrix. But hopefully, without all the dystopianism.) I look forward to visiting my friends’ Instagram accounts and eating the photos of the food they constantly post.

    2. My own personal robot servant – While I’m integrating into the metaverse, someone (or something) will have to keep an eye on things back here in reality. Sure, a robot can clean my floors, but in 2022, I expect to be able to purchase a robot that will also keep an eye out for burglars, make out my grocery list, and give me the answer to Final Jeopardy.

    1. Printing my own tiny house – In the interest of making my robot servant’s life easier, I’m willing to downsize to a tiny house. (Okay, maybe it doesn’t care, but I do. That’s what makes me so nice.) Given the current housing stock, I may have to 3D print one. The IEEE Computer Society thinks that 2022 will bring a revolution in fabrication for 3D printing. This will allow for the production of designs that, until now, would have been too expensive. Of course, it may take all of 2022 to 3D print my tiny house.


  • 01/01/2022 2:18 PM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)

    Kathy Vogler, Communications Manager, Expedient Technology Solutions

    I’m a member of a fantastic Dayton area technology leads group. We are homegrown and somewhat modeled after the very successful BNI group methodology. We cover technology from A to Z with one person representing each type of technology touch.  We are all “in technology” these days and we cover a large swath of technology with much of it residing in Gray Areas. 

    So exactly what is a Gray Area?

    A gray area is an often-used analogy to the area of color that exists between black and white, complete opposites.  To an artist, gray areas result from ambiguity and rich variations that naturally occur in our environments.  It’s been said that the ability to see and think in gray areas is a basic element of intelligence. A price can be expensive or cheap, but the gray area will determine if it’s a reasonable price or a good value.  It’s hard to categorize gray areas because often they are unique.  I saw this and it is a perfect example: A boat is like a canoe and a kayak without technically conforming to either of those categories.  Complex systems, like technology, are literally too complex to model easily.

    Are you a Boat or a Canoe?

    Who says they are in technology?  Everyone.  Not picking on any particular industry, because most people I know are really awesome people, but unfortunately, there are people who believe they can sell anything to anyone.  Do they say “I am a seller of a specific business product or service”? Nope, these days it may sound something like “I work in business technology and help people manage and reduce costs.”  And, while this is probably true, it falls into the gray area of technology.  Competition is fierce in nearly every business.  COVID took a toll on our traditional methods of working.  Remote and hybrid working changed things immediately and for the future. Supply chain issues are mounting and making us rethink our strategies.  It’s wise for all companies to look deeper into technologies to add to their repertoire. Often, non-technical companies in the traditional sense will acquire a technology team that compliments their existing services and salespeople are compensated for promoting and selling these newly added technologies.  The logic is that it’s all technology since everything plugs into the network.  I believe it’s critical that we always reflect our actual services and resources to our clients to avoid potential failures on their networks.  Businesses completely depend on their technology.  There are experts in all areas of business technology, from one extreme to the other and including all of those gray areas. 

    What exactly is business technology? 

    Simply put, business technology is any form of technology that is integrated directly into the operation of a business.  Twenty years ago, when I took a job at a technology company, it was fairly straightforward with infrastructure/hardware at one side of the building and programming/software at the other.  Gray area at that time was if your company did both.  As our reliance on the internet grew, so did the complexities of technology.  Ironically, the dot-com bubble burst at about that same time, but progressive-thinking companies survived and flourished.  Voice over IP originated around 1995 and grew to become a business standard.  Video communications, fax sharing, integration of copiers and door alarms all made our work experience more efficient by using the internet.

    And of course, the introduction of the indispensable grand champion of smartphones (thank you Steve Jobs) changed it all. Social media arrived, the cloud became a go-to resource, we no longer stored our data on portable files that someone took home, and disaster recovery become a must-have business plan. Additionally, we have artificial intelligence, commercial drones, driverless vehicles, virtual reality, the Industrial Internet of Things, cloud and collaborative robots, and digital everything. We must never forget that cybercriminals evolve along with these changes.

    To quote Pink Floyd “It could be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team.”

    I mentioned I was part of a technology networking group, and this is how we work together, as a team.  Yes, we have a ton of overlap, and I don’t want to use the term “cooperative competition,” but in our group we each fill predetermined roles and truly help each other.  By doing this, we are collectively helping our clients and the Greater Dayton region with skilled resources in every aspect of technology.

    Here are our group’s categories:

    • ·         Data integration
    • ·         Office hardware/software
    • ·         Managed IT services (this is my spot)
    • ·         IT coaching
    • ·         IT staffing
    • ·         IT promotional video
    • ·         Structured cabling
    • ·         Website and digital marketing
    • ·         Fiber optics telecommunications
    • ·         Copier and managed print services
    • ·         Telecom/phone systems
    • ·         Trade association education (this is Technology First’s spot)
    • ·         Training and coding
    • ·         Cybersecurity
    • ·         Hardware OEM
    • ·         Robotics
    • ·         Software testing
    • ·         Virtual reality

    It’s an interesting mix and we have a ton of overlap with lots of gray areas to cover. But the plan with this thought process is that by working together we provide transparency and the right resources for our collective clients.  I took a quick look at “cybersecurity” and that one category all by itself has nearly as much gray area as the rest of technology.  It seems we live and work in the Gray Zone.  

    If you ask me what my company does, I will tell you “We’re a cybersecurity-focused managed IT services company.”  Sure, we do a lot of other things too, but I think this is a very black and white statement and hopefully easy to understand.  Technology First is the embodiment of this strategy with a mission to connect, strengthen and champion our IT community. Area businesses, and all their employees, will succeed and continue to grow if they are using the right technology resources for their needs. Let’s all be a part of that success as it ripples through our community.


  • 12/01/2021 10:47 AM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)

    Melissa Cutcher, Executive Director, Technology First

    As this year ends, I have been reflecting on our mission to connect, strengthen and be a champion for our IT community. So much has happened this year!

    • Technology First hosted almost fifty special interest group meetings to engage regional leadership, to learn and find inspiration in their field of interest. With over 1,000 IT professionals in attendance!
    • We hosted our first ever virtual digital mixer in partnership with Jobs Ohio and SOCHE. We had over twenty-five employers and over two hundred students and adults register for the event. It was a tremendous success, and we look forward to hosting the next Digital Mixer on Wednesday, February 16th, at WSU Student Union.
    • In April we launched a new website! The new website is fantastic and allows for peer-to-peer communication through the forums. If you have not checked it out yet…https://www.technologyfirst.org/Peer-Forum
    • We hosted a Girl Scout Cyber Challenge in partnership with Girl Scouts of Western Ohio to explore the world of Cybersecurity for a day filled with activities. Activities were led by over twenty cyber security professionals/volunteers. Volunteers tasked just under fifty plus girl scouts with stopping a cybersecurity breach and went through various stations to break through technological based challenges.
    • Technology First awarded $5500 in Scholarships to IT students at University of Dayton, The Ohio State University, Wright State University, and Sinclair Community College. To date we have awarded over $95,000 to students across the region! And this year the golf outing raised over $3800 for the Technology First Scholarship Fund!
    • We participated in Career Adventure Camp in partnership with Dayton Metro Library and hosted four stations with almost 20 IT professionals who volunteered their time and talents towards to share IT career pathways with over 950 7th & 8th grade students. Our volunteers shared their professional journeys and experiences with the students and inspired them to consider careers in IT.
    • Taste of IT 2021 was in-person! Wow, what a momentous event and it was amazing to see everyone in 3-D. We had two keynotes, twenty-five breakout sessions, over thirty exhibitors and over 300 IT professionals in attendance. It was a major event full of learning, networking, and fun! We look forward to seeing you next year for the 16th Annual Taste of IT on Wednesday, November 16, 2022!

    AND, oh so much more! We would not be able to accomplish all these remarkable things, and more, if it were not for the amazing leadership and volunteers that make up Technology First. Thank you so much for your support. Volunteers change the world, and we are forever grateful! Thank you for joining us and we look forward to seeing you in 2022!

    Cheers!


  • 11/01/2021 3:30 PM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)

    BY JOHNNY HATCH, AHEAD

    Historically, monitoring has been something that could be manually deployed to a set of physical or virtual infrastructures, and once in place, you were good to go. Alerts and events would occur if something went wrong, and the monitoring tool would simply notify you with details about the incident. IT operations teams would nurse their infrastructure back to health, and all was good and right in the world again.

    Fast-forward to today, however, and you’ll find a much different situation – one where enterprises are increasingly embracing a culture of DevOps and the world of monitoring is reckoning with the need to evolve and adapt. Production environments are no longer static or perpetual where monitoring is a one-and-done activity. Rather, concepts like observability—where teams are taking a holistic approach to measuring and understanding digital experiences—are being baked into the release management pipeline to ensure every application and every bit of infrastructure being deployed has monitoring attached to it. But how do you get there? What tools and technologies are ushering in this new age of monitoring and observability? The not-so-surprising answer: An intelligent combination of automation and data.

    A Call to Automation

    As the velocity of software release cycles increases, the manual approach to deploying monitoring agents or instrumenting everything in the release for proper observability becomes impractical and counterproductive. Can you imagine a developer checking in code to a source code management repository, creating a ticket in an ITSM system, and requiring someone within IT operations to manually deploy monitoring to that release? That flies in the face of speed, agility, and what a culture of DevOps is trying to accomplish (releasing better software, faster).

    Leveraging automation tools, such as Ansible, Puppet, or Chef, is a great first step toward making monitoring pervasive with every release. This may involve the automated deployment and installation of a monitoring agent, the customization of a configuration file to define what gets monitored, or API calls to the control plane of a monitoring system to register new systems for observation. Fortunately, many continuous integration (CI) tools either have these automation capabilities out-of-the-box or stitch well with third-party automation tools.

    Another growing trend we’re seeing in the quest toward making monitoring pervasive is ‘observability as code.’ In the same way that infrastructure as code seeks to codify infrastructure components as configuration files using JSON or YAML for consistent and repeatable use, we can leverage a similar capability with monitoring and observability. Increasingly, we’re seeing observability vendors develop terraform providers to do just that.  Head over to the Terraform Registry and search for your favorite observability vendor to see if they have something listed.

    A Data-Driven Approach

    Once a repeatable structure has been established to deploy observability in an automated fashion, we can take things a step further in the use and maturity of observability data. If the goal of DevOps is to release better software more quickly, the question of how we do that begs to be asked. Observability provides one answer: by leveraging data about the health, performance, and availability of the application while running in a pre-production, lower-tier environment. You might be asking yourself, “does that mean monitoring and observability should be deployed outside of just production?” The short answer is yes. There are a host of benefits to having the telemetry data to make better-informed decisions about whether or not to promote code from a pre-production environment to a production environment. Many in the marketplace have begun to call this process ‘release verification.’

    Among the largest data sources to drive this automated decision-making process are the metrics, logs, and traces from our observability stack. If there is too much latency being identified by our APM tool, too many errors in the logs, or anomalous metrics coming from our applications or infrastructure, then our tooling should be integrated or stitched into our delivery pipelines to throw up a red flag and say, “Stop! Don’t release or promote this code.” In addition to taking automated action, it would also facilitate a quick feedback loop to the development team, providing insight into why it failed so developers can spend more time on value-add activities and less time troubleshooting.

    Conclusion

    Monitoring maturity has come a long way in a short period of time – especially as the ways infrastructure and applications are architected and released to market have evolved. Learning to become proactive in the use of monitoring and observability data as part of a CI/CD pipeline can be new to a lot of traditional operations teams (particularly for those who have historically focused on incident response activities). However, employing an automated and data-driven approach to the use of observability will result in better software, differentiated products and services, happier customers, and outpaced competition.


  • 10/08/2021 2:19 PM | Kaitlin Quellhorst (Administrator)
    Magnetic Mobile is pleased to welcome Brian Sichi as its new Chief Executive Officer as the company continues to expand its capabilities and workforce.

    Sichi brings more than 20 years of experience growing innovative teams at international technology consultancies. Magnetic co-founders Beck and Barry Besecker will remain active board members.

    Headshot of Brian Sichi

    The pandemic has driven more retail activity to the digital space. This increased demand for standout online and in-app experiences has helped Magnetic Mobile grow new and existing client partnerships. Having recently increased revenue by 85% and nearly doubled its workforce, the company looks to continue that expansion into 2022 and beyond.

    “Magnetic has a proven track record of delivering superior customer engagement for our partners and that reputation allows us to take advantage of new opportunities in the current landscape,” said Beck Besecker. “Brian’s vast experience leading collaborative teams at some of the world’s best enterprise-level tech firms will help us capitalize on that momentum, building on our strengths and growing Magnetic’s portfolio.”

    Previously the Retail Loyalty Division of sister company Marxent before spinning out in 2016, Magnetic Mobile has partnered with Speedway (now part of the 7-Eleven family) for nearly a decade to support the digital components of its industry-leading Speedy Rewards program.

    Magnetic Mobile combines data-driven design strategy with the latest technology to create digital experiences that keep customers coming back for more. With expertise in UX design, content strategy, front-end and back-end web development, mobile applications, and digital promotions management, Magnetic supports every step of the customer journey.

    With headquarters in the heart of the Cincinnati-Dayton technology corridor, Magnetic is proud to be rooted in the Midwest. Rapid growth during the pandemic has enabled expansion of its remote workforce, adding top talent from across the country.

    Magnetic has developed mobile applications and responsive websites for many of the nation’s top manufacturing and retail brands including Champion Windows & Home Exteriors, La-Z-Boy, and Bob’s Discount Furniture.

    “Having been a client of Magnetic’s sister company, Marxent, I experienced first hand the customer focus and innovation that Beck and Barry bring to organizations. I look forward to working with them in their continued roles on the Magnetic board,” said Brian Sichi. “I couldn’t be more excited to join the leadership team at Magnetic and to expand on that legacy as we bring Magnetic’s capabilities to a broader client base while continuing to innovate.”

    Sichi brings to Magnetic more than two decades of experience driving innovation at some of the largest technology consultancies in the world. Most recently, he worked as Director of U-Collaborate Innovation & Digital solutions for KPMG Australia.

    His previous roles include Exponentials & Analytics Lead for Deloitte’s Leadership Center for Clients and Strategy, Innovation, & Transformation Practice Lead for Capgemini Government Solutions. Sichi is also a Marine Corps veteran, having served in the United States, Somalia, and Korea.

    “Magnetic is a high-performing organization positioned to take our success even higher,” said Sichi. “We are a company built for a tech-savvy world and have a great opportunity to help existing and new clients improve their digital brand.”


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