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Views from the Prairie

April 12

Is Your Business Protected?

On April 3, a tornado bounced through a Lancaster Texas truck stop, picking up trailers, spinning them hundreds of feet in the air before smashing them into the ground, and providing a strong visual of the dangers businesses face. Recently, a major processor got "hacked" costing them their "approved" status with Visa. There are a lot of ways for businesses to be destroyed. It takes a lot of work to minimize the risks of being in business. Are you working to minimize that damage?

It is hard to think of the ways that our businesses can be destroyed. Most of us spend so much time reacting to the day to day crises that we ignore the "tsunami" of risk other factors pose to business continuity. In today's world, many businesses ignore the risks that cell phones and tablets are bringing.

Disasters can happen within a few seconds. It could have been our business that got smashed by the tornado. It took only 2-3 seconds for that event. A "smash and grab" of the laptop from your car seat containing your company financial records takes only a couple of seconds. The hack of Google's security source code took only a few seconds (and Google has been dealing with the fallout of that event for months). The actual hacking of the major credit card processor would not have taken very long either.

When VeriFone's very first shipment was being flown across the Pacific, the plane landed at an airport and burned to the ground destroying that shipment and they have had disaster planning ever since.

One of the fastest ways to lose a business is to have a major data loss. It is reported that 60% of the businesses that lost their data go bankrupt within six months. There are three ways to lose data: have someone break into your system and steal data, have your disk crash without backup, or have the equipment get stolen. One place reports that 140,000 hard drives crash in this country every week. Currently, a majority of thefts and burglaries involve the loss of a cell phone or tablet. Even NASA had a laptop stolen that had the codes for controlling the International Space Station on it.

After a number of public companies have been found to have had network security breaches, the SEC has issued the guidance that network security breaches are "material events" that need to be reported.

If you are dealing with sensitive information, all laptop disks should be encrypted. In order to minimize the cost of a cell phone loss, we need to both minimize the data we store on the cell phone and have it backed up.

Finally, remote access is one of the major ways that people are breaking into networks. Even though top executives want that access, it needs to be thought through. Some companies are now insisting that when executives travel into certain countries, they travel with "sanitized" laptops which are wiped clean as soon as the executives return from there.

It takes significant effort to keep a business safe in a dangerous world.

Silos in your Business

The only businesses that do well with silos are farmers and grain elevator companies storing grain in them (and even then, some blow up every year). Many other businesses have internal "silos" where parts of the company do not work well with the rest of the company. In the April Inc. magazine, a business consultant tries to make the case that companies should work to get rid of silos. While his argument is valid that companies without silos do better, it ignores the facts of human nature.

Ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution, companies have treated human beings as if they were parts to a machine. Machines do not care how many parts they have. Why should a company care how human beings operate? Except that we have to. People push back against being treated as a machine.

One of the ways that people push back is by joining groups within the crowd. Human beings will naturally split into different sized groups; "family" sized groups of 5 to 7 people, tribal sized groups of around 75 people, and another group of around 150 people. Any collection of people will break down into those sizes of groups. The only question is whether the company will manage that breakdown. "Silos" exist in a business because top management failed to provide the reason why different groups should work together.

One common result of business "silos" are data "silos". That is when data being used by one group is not able to be shared with other groups in the company. This separate data adds costs and makes it far harder for customers to get consistent service from the company.

We prevent silos by clear communication of the real business objectives.

Risky World

Angry Birds splat on your cell phone battery. Researchers have found that the game uses only 20% of its energy playing the game, but 45% of its energy telling ad servers where you are and downloading ads with another 28% keeping the communications link open.


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