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Episode 49 – What is cryptography?

It’s Friday and today’s question is about cryptography.

Cryptography can let me send you a private message that no one else can read.  It can also let me prove to you that I sent it, not someone else, and that no one modified it before it got to you.

This is a big deal and it’s still not built into many of the tools we use around the office.

When you get past all the “spooky math,” cryptography is like the coded messages we sent to each other as kids.  If you and I agree on the code, I can send you a secret message.  Of course, these codes are much more complex, but it’s the same game.

The first big problem is that you and I have to share the secret code without anyone else seeing it.  That might work if you and I work down the hall from each other, but it’s tough to make work for all 7.5 billion of us.

Fortunately, a couple of bright guys in the 1970s came up with a way to use two keys.  A private key you keep secret and a public key you share with everyone.

If I want to send you a private message, I lock it with your public key and you unlock it with your private key.  If you want to prove the message is authentic, I lock it with my private key and you unlock it with your public key.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we have this technology, but it’s not built into everything yet.  You can’t prove that email from your boss really came from your boss.  In most offices, the confidential file on the shared drive can be emailed to anyone in the world by accident.

This isn’t a user problem nor is it a science problem.  It’s just taking a long time for these advances to show up in our tools and workflow.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #49 – 2/15/2019

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Episode 48 – Who leads my IT tech?

In a well-functioning company, IT is not an island all to itself…no matter how much we technical folks like to treat it that way.  So who leads my IT tech?

This week we’ve been asking, “Should I fire my IT tech?” and I’ve said, “probably not. They’re the only one who knows all the passwords.”

Your IT tech may be more than a tech.  You may have a born CIO who can meld your business strategy to your IT investment.  These individuals do exist, and you’re in great shape if you have one.

More likely, your IT tech loves fiddling with the tech.  That’s why they’re an IT tech. Duh.  Your IT tech needs guidance.  They won’t discern your business strategy unless you take the time to tell them.

If you’re a giant company, your CIO gets to sit through all the committee meetings and turn business direction into concrete direction to the IT staff.  In a regular company, you’re lucky if you have time to even write down the business direction.

As a business manager, it’s tempting to fill that role yourself.  You may even know enough about IT to ask the right questions… in addition to your regular job.

A growing trend is to hire a Virtual CIO.  You don’t need and can’t afford a full-time CIO, but you can hire a fractional one.  Or you may contract out for an IT assessment.  We talked about those last week.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #48 – 2/14/2019

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Episode 47 – What supports my IT tech?

Your IT tech may the only one in the building that truly understands your systems.  So, what can you put in place to support the IT tech?

This week we’ve been asking, “Should I fire my IT tech?” and I’ve said, “probably not.”  Not unless they’re watching cat videos all day.

Often, failures aren’t due to the IT tech.  The root cause may be the lack of people, processes, and systems to support the IT tech.  Like a running back on a football team without anyone to block or coaches to review game film.

Now, I love to find creative solutions to complex problems.  But you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  At some point, you have to reduce that creative solution to repeatable practice.

IT is complex.  Creating those repeatable practices takes time and money.  I read once that it can cost $1.5 million and about 3 years to build mature service delivery.  Regular companies don’t have the time or the money.

You could always ask the IT tech to define these.  A senior tech may jump at the chance.  But if your business is growing, your tech can be pretty busy.  The backlog may be part of the reason you’re dissatisfied.

As usual, other people have through about this before we have.  ITIL is a process map that defines five stages of the service delivery lifecycle.  If you have a single tech, you’re probably not going to spend some on it.  If you’re backing that tech with a service provider, you can find one that is already using those processes.

Tomorrow, we look at IT leadership.  Who guides the IT Tech when IT intersects business?

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #47 – 2/13/2019

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Episode 46 – Who supports my IT tech?

If your business depends on an IT tech to keep things moving, who does the IT tech depend on?

This week we’re asking, “Should I fire my IT tech?”  Well, probably not.  Not unless they’re posting mean things about the business on Facebook.

Often, the probably isn’t the IT tech.  It’s the support network the IT tech needs to be successful.

If you’re a kindergarten teacher, you’re standing all alone in front of 25 students.  I think it’s 25.  It’s been a long time since I had kids in kindergarten.  Even the best teacher is outnumbered.

Presumably, there’s back up.  When faced with a problem, the other teachers – some more senior, some less so – can provide help and advice.

The same is true about your IT tech.  In a giant company, you have first level techs supported by second level techs supported by third level techs and managers and architects and so on.  The buck stops somewhere and there’s often someone who can’t go home until the problem is solved.

You won’t have that in a regular company.  You have to find a way to reproduce it.

Rather than looking for a tech that is faster, broader, and more experienced, you can look to service providers to deliver those additional layers of experience.  You may not need an architect all day, every day.  But when you need one, you need one.

Tomorrow, we talk about the structural support for your IT tech.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #46 – 2/12/2019

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Episode 45 – Should I fire my IT tech?

When a business is successful, you can start to feel growing pains, particularly in IT.  Maybe the IT tech isn’t so good anymore.  Should I fire my IT tech?

Probably not.  Well, unless they’re stealing office supplies.

Even the best IT tech is just one person.  A great employee in a suboptimal environment will usually be suboptimal.  A mediocre employee in a great environment can be reasonably good.  The best ones can transcend all this, but that’s not the way to structure a business.

How do you build that environment where the IT tech can deliver the results you need?  If you were a gigantic bank, you’d have senior techs and junior techs and program managers and manager managers.  That’s hard to replicate in a regular company.

But you do need to replicate it.  The question is how.

Too often, the failures start to look bad for the IT tech.  But it’s possible the IT tech is doing all the same things that made them successful all along.

This week we’re going to look at who is there to support the IT tech.  We’ll look at the systems and procedures that keep things operating smoothly.  And we’ll look at the leadership side of things.  Do you have a CIO or a low-level tech or maybe both.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #45 – 2/11/2019

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Episode 44 – What good is Voice Over IP (VOIP)?

It’s Friday and today’s question is about telephones.  What good is Voice over IP?

A quick review.  Telephones started with a couple of wires that carried your voice back to the central office and through switching equipment and amplifiers and whatever to the other person.  Like everything else, they’ve turned digital…just like your music on Spotify.

Okay, so what?  Well, digital voice can be turned into computer messages just like cat videos and Twitter arguments and everything else on the internet.

That’s interesting.  But we haven’t gotten to the magic yet.

In many businesses, there’s a piece of equipment called a PBX that costs you a bunch of money to buy and then a bunch more money to operate.  If the phone calls are now just computer messages, you may not need that piece of equipment.  They can handle it in the cloud.

But that’s just cost savings.  We still haven’t gotten to the magic yet.

If it’s all just computer connections in the cloud, your can make and receive calls from your desk phone no matter where you are.  That’s really good for people whose jobs take them out of the office a good bit.  You don’t use your cell phone number to place business calls. You use the same desk phone number you would in the office.

That’s the magic.  No, really.  Well, I thought it was magic.  Maybe we should fight about this on Twitter.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #44 – 2/8/2019