Hurricane Tips: How to Keep Your Business Running
Dan: It's 8:30. It's time for Bit-Wizard Tip of the Wand. We have the world-famous Sam and Jason with us this morning. Good morning, guys.
Jason: Good morning.
Sam: Good morning. The team is back together.
Dan: Yeah, it's like the band is back together, huh? I like that. So you guys, we were talking off air a little bit. Everything's going well for the Bit-Wizards team, and I'm glad to hear that. Sounds like you're about as busy as you've ever been.
Sam: Yes, it is back-to-school season right now, and I know schools are going back at different times, but that's keeping us on our toes because that means there's a lot of... The school doesn't act on its own on an island. There's all these other local... The community's involved with it. And so we're seeing that spreading out across the whole community and we get to be a part of the IT changes that are happening there, whether that's helping someone give their kids some computer hardware that they're going to need or whether it's helping the schools themselves.
Dan: Yeah. There's lots of going on and well, let's get right into it, shall we?
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Sam: Yeah. So in any normal year, August is going to be one of those sweet months where our parents breathe a sigh of relief, like, " Oh man, kids are going back to school. We can get our life back to normal again."
Dan: Yeah, I know you can almost hear the champagne corks popping.
Jason: It's even better at my house. My wife's going back to school as well, as a teacher. I'm like, " Yay."
Dan: She's not listening, is she?
Jason: I don't think so, but I'm always in trouble, anyway. It just gives her more ammo.
Sam: I think the best thing about the kids going back to school is they'll finally know what day of the week it is again because I'm pretty sure my kids didn't know it was Sunday until I dragged them out of bed for church. And they're like, " Wait, what is today?" They've lost all concept of time.
Dan: "I want to sleep in. I don't have to go to school, Dad." " No, it's church."
Sam: My children have a legit. I asked, " What time did you get up?" And they say something like five, and I'm like, " Five in the morning or five in the evening?"
Dan: Yeah, they lose sense of time. No doubt about that. I guess it's like when people get retired, they don't know what day of the week it is, either.
Sam: Right. I think that's what's happening here is the no concept of time anymore, so getting them back to school is going to be awesome with the sound of school bells ringing again. But of course, with the world we live in today, a lot of that excitement is turning into even some anger and some confusion. So we're all asking ourselves, " Am I sending my kids back to class? Or am I going to be at home being their teacher again?"
Jason: Yeah. The public schools seem to be caught in an endless debate of how do we go back to school? We're all sitting here scratching our heads, Dan. We have to wonder what role technology is going to play in this new school year. We've started asking ourselves questions like, is my student going to get the same education online as they'd get in the classroom, which is a legitimate question. I mean, I've got two teenage boys and I watched them do their schoolwork last semester, and let's just say it was something I wish I would have had when I was in high school, okay?
Dan: Yeah. You could chew gum, too, huh?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. You could leave campus for lunch and everything. But some of the schools out there, the private institutions that aren't really... They have some government regulation, but can be a little more quick and agile, have answered this with something called one-to-one learning.
Sam: One-to-one learning is really just give parents the ability in theory to have their kids on that same learning path, regardless if they're in the classroom or if their children are at home learning online. One-to-one is still definitely an evolving concept, but the idea is pretty simple. That's where they record the teacher in the classroom setting or they broadcast that lesson live or the students can come back later and watch it on the rewind. And then they provide scheduled direct interaction with the online and the in-class students. And finally give the students the deadlines to complete their homework. Basically, the teacher is teaching in a classroom and they're broadcasting online. If there are children in the classroom with them present, great. That's their human presence. But if not, there are going to be other children watching online, and they will have scheduled time to be able to interact with the teacher online one-to-one so that it's not just essentially a YouTube video without any other feedback, other than the cesspit of humanity that is the YouTube comment section. Then the other big part about that is keeping the schedule the same so that you don't have what I'm sure happened with a lot of parents, a lot of people listening would probably relate to this. At the end of March, April, as we were closing up this last school year, some students were very diligent about studying from home and keeping up. Some, like my youngest, were even getting ahead of the schedule because they're able to look ahead, but a lot of students were waiting until really that last week to cram a semester's worth of work and exams into the last four or five days of the school year. So with one-to-one learning, it is designed to keep those deadlines the same, to keep the progress moving at the same pace, whether they're in class or whether they're at home.
Jason: Right. It's... Go ahead, Dan.
Dan: No, I was going to say that's probably really good for the procrastinators.
Jason: It very much is so because it keeps them honest. If they're at home, they still have to do their homework on that timely basis where if they don't turn it in on time, they're going to get dinged for it. But I mean, it's a really cool concept that I could see growing into how we go to school across the board in the future. I mean, if your parents have to pull you out to go to a family emergency or something, and you're gone a week, well, as long as you have internet, you're not missing school. You can fly in and out of a classroom to online, to classroom, to online, and never miss a step.
Sam: In fact, that's a good point is that we've talked about this on the show. Vince talked about this. There are people who are going to just take this as victims and say, " Oh man, what are we going to do? Everything's against us and the world's going to heck." And then there are other people who are saying, " What can we do? How can we adapt? How can we change? How can we pivot on the fly?" And then in fact, even see an opportunity here to increase and to grow maybe in ways that weren't opportunities or possibilities before. For us, it's probably easy as parents to think, " Okay, the school just needs to do that then. They just need to get their online lined up with their in-class. They just need to do that." But from a technology perspective, it's not as easy as it sounds because that now means that all the schools have to have all of their classes streaming online, which is using up internet bandwidth. That is not an unlimited resource in our community. There are some technical difficulties here that we've been considering as an IT team, even working with some educational institutions in the area, preparing for this solution.
Dan: What you're saying, honestly, Sam, so for example, if all the schools were to live stream at the same time, all the classes were at the same time, let's just say, because people have been saying, well, you can go in class or you can still be distance learning at home through your computer on the internet. Now, if they did that and all the classes had kids in the classes, but they all were live streaming at the same time, would that even be feasible with the bandwidth?
Sam: That's a great question.
Jason: That's something that we've had to fight with, and there's this beautiful little thing called transcoding that can break down that HD or that 4K video into something a little more malleable to save on bandwidth. But these are things that your IT team needs to be considerate of. Doing this and pulling all these applications together without, honestly, an army of IT engineers behind you, it's a feat.
Sam: Yeah, and for IT, that is the ability to scale. That's something we're often looking at, is how can we make sure that the technology won't just work, but will work at scale. We can test out a teacher doing a live in-class session and then streaming it to the web as well with some people viewing online. But what does that mean when you've got 50 teachers doing the exact same thing simultaneously, or a hundred teachers in the same building using the same internet connection, all streaming their video classes online with interaction from the students at the same time. It's so hard to gauge what that scale is going to be, and that's why we've been really stepping in to see how we can optimize applications and the integrations and how we can work with the networking and with the ISPs to see what we can do to load up the bandwidth and get everything set up as easily as possible. And what tools already exist in the marketplace so we're not having to reinvent the wheel. That's a big one for us. It's not trying to... In this instance, we are figuring out new solutions that haven't been done before, but we're also working in a community of people who are also trying to figure out the same thing at the same time.
Dan: Right. Yeah, so that would be quite the burden, I would imagine, for any IT service to be able to... Not burden, but that would be a challenge. Probably the best term for that. Be a challenge for you guys. Well, you guys have a Cracker Jack team over there. You guys have specialists in pretty much every single field, the Bit-Wizards, so I'm sure you guys have got this pretty much figured out.
Sam: Well, we're looking at using these tools that are already available. We've heard Zoom is the buzz word right now. We're actually working with Microsoft Teams, which is another video conferencing software, that in many ways is superior to Zoom, if not only just for the security of the students, because that's what's really paramount in all of this, is making sure the students stay safe, not just by their physical distancing, but are kept safe by their online presence as well. So for us, we're using things like Teams and seeing how we can integrate those with educational software that lives online and Blackboard and helping these schools pull together their technology power to get them through this next school year. At Bit-Wizards, this is what we've really been focusing on here in the last few weeks.
Jason: Right. Yeah, and Dan, if your business or even your educational institute is looking to use technology and shift into this new reality that we have, that's what we do. I mean, we take what you're trying to accomplish, we listen to those goals that you have, and we build that solution for you. This is where Bit-Wizards excels.
Dan: I'm sure the schools that you're working with probably love you guys.
Sam: I sure hope so because really, I'm no expert in education. The problem for me was one of my teachers, growing up, hated me, and the worst thing about that was I was homeschooled. My parents hated me so much. No, I'm kidding. Education is not my field, but IT is. What we can take is that cloud education experience that we already have and apply it into these different sectors. It's not just school season, though. It's another season as well. So that really leads us into our next topic of What's Up Our Sleeve.
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Sam: That's right.
Jason: Like you're reading our mind. We've already had a tropical storm buzz us and we've got a hurricane over in the Atlantic side.
Sam: Touchdown, right, in Carolina?
Jason: In North Carolina.
Jason: Let's face it. If we've been Floridians for quite a while, we have a tendency to shrug off hurricanes until they're 24 hours out there, even though we're told not to, and even if it's a Category 1, we're like, " Eh." I'm more likely running to the grocery store to make sure I have enough beer. Don't laugh.
Dan: Party's at your house.
Jason: Most of us know that's true. But one thing that a lot of businesses don't take into account just because we're so used to it. This is just the time of year where we're a shooting gallery and we've become accustomed to, " There's something out there in the gulf." Well, if it's not 24 hours out there, or if it's not a Category 3, I'll pay attention to it when I get under a hurricane warning. And then it catches us off guard. I think we were caught off guard by Michael. I think we were all holding our breath on that one. So, we want to go over a couple of smart IT steps that you can take, right now, before we get caught off guard again, to prepare your business IT and your data for the-
Jason: ... evacuating. Yeah, absolutely.
Sam: Yeah, and it is a season. We know it comes around every year. If you've been to Florida... The first year you move to Florida, you get to freak out about it. And then the next year you move to Florida, you get to be a Floridian and say, "It's not that big. There's still water in the shelves at Publix, so I think I'm okay."
Jason: There's no beer.
Sam: That's when we know things are getting bad. But I think it's easy also to forget about that fact because we're dealing with other circumstances right now with the economy, with the local job market, with the coronavirus. With all of these different things going on, it's easy to forget the hurricane season is upon us. The first step, it sounds obvious, but of course the first step as always is to have a plan. By having a plan for your business in case you need to evacuate is going to give you that extra time you need to focus on the more important tasks in the emergency, like getting out of town or getting your hardware moved up out of the waterline in the event of a flood or things like that. If you have a plan and a checklist, then you're less likely to forget important items because so much of the technology we use day to day, we take it for granted. We don't even think about it. It isn't until we actually have to stop and take inventory of it and know what would we do if we had to evacuate the area to already have a plan in place. That will get you five steps ahead of the competition. It's just having your plan in place for your IT in the event of a hurricane coming through.
Dan: And protecting your data would be the number one, wouldn't it? Honestly, because you can replace hardware, but you can't replace your data.
Jason: Right. And that takes us to embracing the cloud. I mean, we know that there's a lot of people out there that are anti-cloud, but having your data in the cloud gives you ability to not worry about your data anymore or your important financial files that you have. They're already stored somewhere up in the mountain in Colorado on someone else's server because they're not going to see a hurricane. If you're just cloud adverse and you still want to have that server sitting in the back on a pallet, and we've seen everything. We've seen servers used as coffee tables and things like that, you're going to either have to just grab that server and throw it in the back of your car as you head north or take the appropriate precautions today and buy yourself an external hard drive and start backing that server up on a regular basis because it may sound like a pain in the butt now, but when your business gets flooded and that server is part of that damage that happens, man, it's the difference between making your business come back or never opening back up your doors.
Dan: Yeah, and you probably have some of your customers, well not your customers, but potential customers say, " Bit-Wizards? Can you guys get any data out of this?" And it's dripping wet or in several pieces. That's not going to work.
Sam: Yeah, it happens more often than I would like, of people saying can you help us recover from a disaster rather than can you help us prepare against the disaster? So having that plan and starting to utilize the cloud and not being afraid of the cloud because of its security. It actually has better security. We've talked about this quite a lot on the show. If nothing else, making sure you have regular backups that have some history to them as well, which means get started now. Don't wait until a week before. Don't wait until you start seeing the Weather Channel start freaking out and going 24 / 7 coverage of a fist-size cloud over the Atlantic. [ crosstalk 00:17:02]. Yes. That is not the time to start thinking, " Have we backed up our infrastructure?"
Dan: And you know what? Those are the same people that cram for the last three or four days before a final, too.
Jason: Oh yeah.
Dan: It's the same mentality.
Sam: That's exactly right. So getting ahead of it now is just the smart thing to do. But the lifeblood of any business is its communication, the communication that you have with your customer base has got to be critical. The communication you have with your vendors that you work with, and of course, the communication within your organization. And today's day and age, so much of that happens on email. If your email is also on an email server sitting in your location, it's time to consider moving that to the cloud so that in the event of an evacuation, in the event of loss of power in your building, whatever that is, or internet outage in the area, knowing that your email isn't being just lost in cyberspace somewhere and never to return is absolutely critical. You probably know this. If your email goes down, even for just a couple of hours, you start panicking, start freaking out about where in the world? Am I missing something that's important? And so for us, after thinking about backups of the infrastructure, the next thing that we really focus on in a situation like this is how is your email being taken care of? How is your communication system going to work if you are unable to go to the office for whatever reason that is.
Dan: That's a good point. That's a very good point. What's your suggestion?
Jason: Well, we're always going to lean towards migrating to a Microsoft Office Team's platform or a Microsoft Office platform. Microsoft Office checks off 90% of the boxes here. It's going to allow you to store your documents securely. It's going to allow you to migrate your data. It's going to keep it safe for you. It's going to keep your emails safe for you. But one of the cool things that it's also going to do is it's going to let you communicate with the clients. I mean, if you're dealing with clients that are across the nation, they may have no idea that you're evacuating, running from a hurricane. So they're calling you, and that one time they can't get ahold of you might be enough to push them over the edge to go call someone else, or might be someone looking for your business that can't get ahold of you and they just call someone else. You might end up losing a big sell or something. If you have Microsoft Office, you can use Teams to communicate, you can use that Outlook email to communicate as well, and it is seamless. As long as you have internet, you could have even forgotten your laptop at the office while you're in Atlanta or Montgomery. But if you have your smartphone with you, you are still connected and still able to work. Might be a little tiny and annoying to do it on a smartphone, but hey, you're not going to miss that important call, which is another important piece if you're evacuating, is make sure you forward your office phones to your cell phone because you don't want to miss those client calls.
Sam: Yeah. In fact, let me give you one more really good use for your cell phone during hurricane season, and that is taking pictures of your workstation, your laptops, the servers, monitors, mice, printers, all of those. Get a picture of it, get a picture of the serial number, the model number because your insurance is going to need that stuff. If you can't grab all of your company's IT hardware and load it all into the trunk of your cars you're evacuating, then you may end up relying on insurance. Having all of that documented and inventoried is critical to being able to make whatever claims you need to make for the insurance that you're already paying a lot of money for to protect the IT investment you already have.
Dan: Yeah, that's a very good point if it gets damaged by a hurricane, but there's also the possibility that people take advantage of those situations and can come in and steal your things. So having that serial number will cover both bases.
Sam: Yep, that's exactly right. Help you keep track of the inventory you have. It's a good idea to be doing this anyways, to have a good inventory of your IT assets. We do that for our clients. When we are handling their IT, we inventory all of their IT assets on the network. So we know not only how many workstations and servers do they have, we also know what brand they are, what serial number they are. We keep track of all of that for all of our clients when we manage their IT because having one at all is better than having none at all, but waiting until the last minute and trying to grab blurry pictures of everything with your phone as you're rushing and trying to decide, " Am I supposed to sandbag the office right now? Or should I stick around and take high-quality photos of everything?" That's not the best time to be thinking about that.
Dan: A managed IT service like Bit-Wizards is just there to help you prepare for everything. I mean, this is just one of many things that you help people prepare for, but right now, since we're in hurricane season, I'm glad that you brought this up because it's so important. Just like you said before, sometimes people don't think about this until it's a critical time that, " Oh yeah, got to get this on the cloud, or I got to down..." And you don't have time for that because you're preparing for a possible hurricane hitting here. You might have to deploy, you might have to leave the area or hunker down or whatever. Like you said, sandbag, or put plywood up on your windows or whatever it might be. You're not thinking about this till the last minute. Now, it's just too hard.
Jason: Right. Here's the crazy thing, Dan, is as we've evolved into our technology becoming more and more part of our business lives, natural disasters have also taken on the form of the cyber criminals, the cyber attacks, and things like that. So if you're doing everything you can to make sure your data is safe, you're checking off not only the natural disaster check box, but you're also making sure that you're keeping your business safe from those cyber attacks as well. So it's a two for one here. It's a smart play.
Dan: And either way you look at it, you guys have talked about it many, many times of making sure that your data is secure. This is just one of many steps to keep your data secure. It can be when your computer's crashing or anything, but clients of Bit-Wizards should feel pretty secure that you've taken care of them, backing up all their information, their data's ready to go. Just like when we hit the pandemic hit, you had your clients prepared for working from home if they needed to. It didn't take much to turn it on for your clients to work from home. Having a managed IT service, having Bit-Wizards as your managed IT service, you guys cover all the bases because you look forward and you anticipate things that are going to happen.
Jason: Well, that's exactly right. Our clients, when the hurricane's out and the gulf or a pandemic drives them home, they shrug it off because we've already thought about everything. And if we see something that we didn't think about, we're agile enough to take care of it for our clients. Their data's already backed up in a secure cloud service. Their emails are already secure and online so they can just grab their laptop and go.
Sam: Yeah, that's why I think you bring in the professionals to help you. We should be thinking through the things that maybe other people don't think about because it's not their primary focus. It's our focus, though.
Dan: Roger that. Hey, you guys want to do the spell book? Let's do it.
Sam: Yes, absolutely.
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Sam: From the Spell Book is where we demystify our technological geek speak terminology you may have heard and don't necessarily know what it stands for. Today's term is vCIO. You've heard of CEO and COO, is chief executive officer and chief operating officer. There's CFO, the financial officer. Less well-known are the CTO, the chief technological officer. And there's a CISO, chief information security officer as well. There's all these different ones. But CIO is your information officer. That's the person that you have that, it's a part of running your business who is focused mostly on your information. That means how do we secure it? How do we plan and budget for the next year? Which applications should we be using for our company? And of course, most companies in small, medium-sized businesses, don't have all of those C-level executives. A vCIO is a virtual CIO. That's like having a C-level executive on your staff. They have specific jobs and roles that they would do, and that's planning and implementing IT, adjusting to new IT environments, providing guidance on equipment and purchases of services, watching the network for threats, anticipating new technologies coming down the pike. And of course, adapting technology to better fit the roles of business. Now, a virtual CIO, though, is where you have that, but instead of having a C-level executive on staff with a high-priced salary, instead you use a service, an IT firm, that can do this for you as a service. Fulfill all of those duties that we just talked about.
Dan: By the way, who would you recommend?
Sam: So for us, I would recommend this company in Fort Walton Beach. We've worked with them a lot, called Bit-Wizards. They do a fantastic job of keeping track of not only your IT for your business, but your business goals. I think that's the big difference between having a technology partner who can advise you versus asking someone who knows IT. So, rather than even having a consultant come in and say, " Would you evaluate our network and tell us what you think?" There's definitely room for that, but having someone who's going to partner with you and know your business, know where you're trying to go and what it is you're trying to achieve. Who your customer base is, but also understanding what are the standard business applications in your line of business? What do people do in this field? That's just critical.
Jason: When we talk and we consult our clients and even potential clients, we're not consulting them for today, Dan. We are consulting them for five years from now. When we're looking at solutions and things like that, we're looking at how is this going to work for you five years from now? Because it's an investment, and technology is an investment. If you're just trying to solve the problem today, then you're going to have the same problem tomorrow. We're anticipating all that. That's what a virtual CIO is going to do. They're not going to just fix that problem. They're going to anticipate that problem a year from now, four years from now, 10 years from now. What path does your business need to be on to be successful in the future?
Dan: I like that, Bit-Wizards, leaning forward the tip of the wand. That leads me to this. Which customer would you like to say thank you to today?
Jason: Today, with the spirit of going back to school, we're going to talk about one of our newer clients, Rocky Bayou Christian School. Rocky Bayou is one of those trailblazers who is adapting and really embracing this whole one-to-one.
Sam: Yeah, in fact, they're going back to school on Monday. The teachers are already back in classes right now setting up, and they are going back to school on Monday. They are not waiting until the end of the month with the rest of the county. We've been working hard with Rocky Bayou. We're so happy to be working with them.
Jason: We are. We've got, what? Three engineers dedicated to them pretty much all week long-
Sam: That's pretty much right, yeah.
Jason: ... making sure everything's running smoothly and that their students and their staff get the best experience they can possibly get.
Dan: **crosstalk** number one, Bit-Wizards Tip of the Wand. Hey guys, we're going to have to leave it there because it's about time. We're just about out of time, but thank you, Sam. And thank you, Jason, for coming on with us this morning and giving us some great information with hurricanes and schools opening and everything you guys right-