Conduct Regular System Checks to Survive compliance and security audits

No one enjoys an audit. You know that compliance and security are vital areas for your IT department, but facing an audit in these areas is like heading to the dentist for a root canal. Audits always seem to come at the wrong time. And it doesn’t help that no matter how prepared you think you are, the compliance auditor is going to find something wrong — after all, they have to keep their job.

Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer with anxiety every time a security or compliance audit is announced. By proactively addressing compliance and security issues, and performing regular checks that make compliance a year-round focus instead of an annual scramble, your IT department can rest easy when the auditor shows up.

Here’s what you can do to handle compliance issues regularly and stay prepared for audits 365 days a year, while also handling your day-to-day IT project load.

Plan (and budget) compliance work for IT every year

Like most of the IT industry, compliance and regulations change continually. It’s essential for your IT department to work proactively on compliance every year, rather than simply catching up before (or after) an audit. The best solution here is to plan realistic budgets and implement new compliance measures as they come up, instead of waiting for an auditor to point out the fact that they’re missing.

Designate a compliance control point

Rather than spreading compliance tasks through your IT team on an as-needed basis, which often results in a last-minute rush before an audit, appoint one person as your compliance central command to plan and budget your needs. This ensures someone is always keeping an eye on compliance, and you’ll know about potential problems before they become major issues.

Some of the responsibilities for your control point should include:

  • Reading the latest compliance and security publications
  • Attending conferences on new or changing regulatory and security measures
  • Scheduling the IT work required to ensure consistent compliance

Perform regular self-audits

Waiting for your regulators to show up for an audit can throw your IT department into a minor panic. To help control audit fever, create a regular audit schedule and perform “dry runs” with either internal auditors, or a third party that is separate and distinct from your regulators. In addition to helping your department understand and experience audits, these practices also help to strengthen your company’s security and governance positioning.

Prep a single file for your documentation prior to an audit

When you have an upcoming audit, prepare a single binder or efile that contains all of your documentation for compliance, including procedures, policies, system flow diagrams, and anything relevant that pertains to governance or security. Presenting this file to an auditor not only makes their job easier, but also creates a favorable first impression of your preparedness — which can positively impact your overall assessment.

By taking proactive steps to address security and compliance issues before audits happen, you and your IT department can ease audit anxiety and come through the experience quickly and painlessly. Speak to the staffing experts at The Armada Group today, to ensure your company is compliant and to ensure all your staffing needs are met.

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The Problem with Wearable Technology

 

Wearable tech is a relative newcomer to the technology landscape. Not too long ago, gadgets like Google Glass and the Pebble Smartwatch belonged in the realm of science fiction — but today, wearable technology is a fledgling reality. And it’s poised to have a significant impact on the business world.

While wearables were initially introduced as consumer technology, the focus is shifting toward enterprise applications. In fact, industry experts say it’s not a matter of if wearables will become part of the corporate culture, but when. But like any new technology, there are some issues surrounding wearables that CIOs and IT departments should be aware of in order to prepare for the entry of these smart gadgets into the workplace.

Here are some of the most common pitfalls to watch for involving enterprise wearables:

Wearable technology is not well defined

In modern terms, the latest crop of wearable tech devices is still in its infancy — and no one knows exactly what constitutes a wearable. Most personal wearables are centered around fitness or health, and often have connectivity with a mobile application. Devices that are considered enterprise wearables are largely smartglasses and smartwatches.

But new gadgets and categories are emerging, and there is no set definition for wearable technology. This can be problematic for CIOs and IT departments, especially when it comes to defining workplace policies for wearables, if you’re not sure what those policies should apply to.

Smart gadgets suffer from development challenges

As a relatively new technology, wearables face some serious concerns that impact performance and user experience. Some of these challenges, particularly for smartwatches and smartglasses, include:

  • Energy inefficiency for color displays
  • Insufficient Internet connectivity, often creating the need for companion devices
  • Poor battery life
  • A lack of standards for waterproofing charging connectors
  • Privacy and security concerns over personal data collection
  • Awkward design issues

These challenges could make it difficult to integrate wearables into an enterprise environment, particularly the connectivity and security concerns.

No standardized platform for wearable tech

Much like smartphones and tablets, the wearables industry is working without standardized platforms. There are also no regulatory standards in place for wearable tech, bringing challenges for IT departments when it comes to measuring and reporting from a regulatory perspective.

Ideally, wearable software should be hardware-agnostic. Greater collaboration between wearable designers and enterprise developers could lead to platform standardization and across-the-board success — but for now, software systems for wearables are diverse and fragmented.

IT departments have a smaller margin of error

The enterprise wearables industry brings some unique potential pitfalls to IT, especially for rolling out new wearable tech. Smartglasses in particular come with different user experience and design requirements, and many IT departments have no prior exposure to working within these requirements.

In addition, overreaching is a common problem for wearable rollouts — IT departments take on too much, too soon, on the strength of the marketing hype surrounding many of these hot new gadgets. The best strategy is a controlled, small-scale first deployment to test the waters before taking wearables company-wide.

Wearables and legacy systems don’t mesh

The majority of new technologies are designed for integration with legacy systems. This is not so with wearables. Organizations may introduce wearable tech expecting to see productivity gains, only to discover that the utility of wearables relies on tapping into other corporate systems — and there is no easy way to bridge the two.

One of the largest stumbling blocks with wearable integration is data input. Legacy systems are generally built to accept keyed data, but most wearables don’t have keyboard inputs. Instead, they rely on voice or touch input that doesn’t translate to the legacy infrastructure.

The gains made possible by wearable tech are not sufficient to support the expense of replacing existing systems. Instead, CIOs and IT departments need to find a way to bridge wearables with legacy infrastructures in order to derive enterprise value from introducing these new devices to the workplace.

For more on how wearables and other new technologies can fit into your company structure, contact the IT experts at The Armada Group today.

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10 administrative skills every IT manager should have

IT managers need to know more than the tech side of a business. And while administrative skills might seem counterintuitive to the IT professional, there are some non-technical skills you must have in order to successfully manage your IT team.

As an IT leader, you serve as the bridge between your team and upper management or business users — ensuring projects are cleared, tasks are assigned, everyone stays motivated, and the work gets done. Having or developing the following10 indispensable administrative skills will help you do just that.

1. Clearly defining projects and goals

Most IT professionals are creative and resourceful, and will find a way to complete any type of project — as long as they fully understand the project’s objectives and desired outcomes. To keep your team productive, you must be able to define requirements, goals, and expectations to a detailed level. This may mean rejecting sandbox work or project prototyping if there is no definable objective, or identifying the right point to cut off work before it enters unproductive territory.

2. Relationship building with upper management

Like it or not, IT is inextricably linked to the politics of business. Your team’s ability to progress hinges on a solid working relationship with mid-level and upper management throughout the organization. Great IT managers are able to build trust with other management personnel, which gives their own team the leeway they need to undertake projects without interference.

3. Fighting for the budget

Nearly every IT team has experienced the frustration of stopped work because it’s “not in the budget.” IT managers must be able to sell the work to management convincingly, with project justifications, detailed returns on investments, and the hard numbers to back everything up.

4. Serving as a political shield

While there are some exceptions, most IT pros would rather stay in the world of technology, and avoid the world of office politics. In addition to relationship building with management, a successful IT manager will take on political pressures and battles for their team, whether the conflict is with management, shareholders, or other departments — ensuring a clear path to progress.

5. Addressing problems proactively

No project goes off without a hitch, but small snags can often become major roadblocks if they’re not addressed quickly. IT managers should be able to spot problems in any area — technical, strategic, political, or operational — and diffuse the issue before it becomes a full-blown situation.

6. Promoting teamwork

A cooperative and committed team is essential to the success of your projects. However, if there is a competitive environment in your organization where everyone feels the need to outdo everyone else, this atmosphere can adversely affect your team and cause them to work at cross-purposes. Effective IT managers must not only encourage, but practice teamwork — and demonstrate that assisting others is just as valued as individual contributions.

7. Employing the power of praise

Encouraging teamwork, along with productivity, job satisfaction, and loyalty, can be fairly easy to accomplish through the simple method of praising your team. Studies have shown that recognition of an employee’s efforts — even if it’s nothing more than a spoken thank you — can drive engagement and boost a company’s bottom line.

8. Demanding accountability

In any given team, you’ll find at least a few people who are adept at passing the buck. They’ll refuse to accept responsibility for mistakes or problems — and when that happens, the whole team loses. As an IT manager, you need to be familiar with the everyday situations and responsibilities of your team. This way, you’ll know exactly what went wrong with who, and ensure that no one is blamed or demoralized for someone else’s mistakes.

9. Being accountable

As the saying goes, you can’t talk the talk unless you walk the walk. Everyone makes mistakes, including IT managers. If you want your team to practice accountability, you need to own up to your own responsibilities and admit when you’ve gone wrong.

10. Spotting employee burnout

Many IT professionals are highly driven, willing to work hard and put in extra time to solve a problem or complete a project on deadline. But this relentless pace can sometimes lead to burnout — a dangerous situation, and one that the most driven of your team will never let on about. As an IT manager, you need to be able to recognize the signs, and step in to reward hard-working team members with a day off to recharge.

At The Armada Group, we recognize what it takes to find great IT professionals, and are adept at picking out top talent in every facet of IT. Speak with a member of our team today, and learn how we can quickly fill vacancies at your facility with the best talent across the nation.

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5 Tips to Prepare for  a Phone Interview

Prepping for interviews is an essential part of any job search — but are you ready for the right kind of interview? You might have been preparing for an in-person interview, only to find that your initial interview will be over the phone.

Many companies use phone interviews as a pre-screening tool. These interviews are faster and more convenient for busy hiring managers, and can help them reduce a large pool of applicants who are qualified on paper to a manageable size for in-person interviews. If you survive the phone screening, you’ll be invited in to sit down for a traditional interview.

Getting ready for a phone interview is similar to prepping for a traditional interview, but there are a few modifications and additional steps you should take to prepare. These five tips will help you ace your phone interview and move on to the next phase.

1. Take it seriously

The idea of a phone interview can seem informal, so it’s common to think that you’ll be able to just rattle off your qualifications and pass with ease — and therefore, you don’t need to prepare. But the fact is that companies use phone interviews to screen out applicants, and they’re looking for a reason to not schedule a formal interview with you.

Prepare thoroughly for a phone screening, just as you would for a traditional interview. Make sure you’ve studied the job description, researched the company, and practiced your responses to common interview questions.

When should you start preparing for a phone interview? Preferably, as soon as you send off your resume — some hiring managers like to save even more time by asking to do the phone interview the first time they call, instead of scheduling a time for later.

2. Print out your materials

Unless you have all of your application materials memorized completely, it’s a good idea to print everything out and have it in front of you during a phone interview. You’ll almost certainly be asked about specific things that appear on these documents. Make a hard copy of your:

  • Resume and bio
  • Cover letter
  • Full job description
  • Supporting documentation, such as your portfolio or internship position description

In addition to these documents, you can create a “cheat sheet” that will help you stay focused during the phone interview. Make notes of any critical points you want to make with the employer, such as your relevant skills and experience, your interests and passions, and particular abilities that match the written job description.

3. Prep your environment

While you’re not interviewing face to face, you still have to present yourself as a professional during a phone screening. This means you’ll need a good quality phone — a landline, if possible — that doesn’t produce delays, echoes, or tinny sounds, and won’t drop your call in the middle of the interview.

You’ll also need a quiet environment to conduct the interview where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. Choose a private room with a door, where there won’t be traffic noise or barking dogs. If other people will be around during the interview, stress the importance of not having background noise. And if you’re unable to have quiet and privacy at home, consider reserving a private room at a library or other place where you won’t be interrupted.

4. Dress for success

Even though the interviewer isn’t going to see you during a phone screening, it’s still important to prepare and dress the same as you would for a traditional interview. Grab a shower, eat breakfast, and wear a professional outfit for your phone interview.

Why should you do this? Going through the motions of preparing for a live interview will put you in the right frame of mind. If you’re still in your pajamas and interviewing from your bed, you’re likely to feel you’re having an informal chat with a friend, instead of a professional interview that will decide whether you get the job you want.

5. Stand up (or sit straight)

Once again, the hiring manager can’t see you during a phone interview — but your position matters. Like your attire, the way you physically conduct yourself during a conversation affects your frame of mind. Research shows that people who are standing while speaking project themselves better, and feel more confident in what they’re saying — which translates even over the phone.

If you’re uncomfortable or unable to stand, you should at least sit up straight behind a desk or table, with your hard copy documents in front of you. This position projects a more professional stance than slumping on a couch or lounging in bed.

Getting ready for a phone interview? Contact our team of recruiting experts at The Armada Group. We can help you prepare for any interview situation, and ace them all!

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What is Your Nonverbal Communication Saying

During an IT job interview, you’re very aware of the words that come out of your mouth. Hopefully, you’ll have thought about and planned your responses to some of the most common interview questions ahead of time, and you’ll have practiced speaking your answers out loud prior to your interview.

But how much have you thought about what you’re not saying?

Good nonverbal communication is a critical component to a successful interview. The way you present yourself, position yourself, and conduct yourself during an interview can sometimes tell hiring managers more than your words about the type of employee you’ll be — and they are definitely looking for those nonverbal cues. Are yours reinforcing your responses, or telegraphing that you don’t really want the job?

Here’s how you can use nonverbal communication to ace your next IT interview:

Dress for the part

You know you have to wear professional attire for an interview, but what constitutes “professional” at the particular company you’re interviewing with? When you dress as if you already belong in the environment, you’re sending a nonverbal signal to the interviewer that you’ve done your homework, and that you’re the right candidate for the position.

To hit this nonverbal cue, find out what you can about the company’s dress code. Look online, both at the company’s website and social media pages, where you’re likely to find at least a few photos of people at work. You can also visit the company prior to your interview and observe how everyone dresses.

Nail the handshake

It’s natural and expected for the interviewer to shake your hand when you arrive. The hiring manager will also develop an impression of you from that handshake — and if you make the wrong one, it’s difficult to correct that impression over the course of the interview.

First, make sure your hands are dry. Regardless of the reason, a damp handshake is never pleasant — so if your palms tend to sweat, or you use the bathroom before the interview, keep tissues with you and pat your hands down just before you head in.

The handshake itself should be firm (but not bone-crushing) and brief. Avoid a limp grip, which says you’re tentative and lack self-confidence, and definitely pass on the two-handed politician’s shake, which says you’re either arrogant or trying too hard.

Strike the right balance with eye contact

If you never meet the interviewer’s eyes, you’re communicating that you’re either too nervous to be effectively confident, or you’re absolutely uninterested in the position. On the other hand, turning an interview into a staring match can get awkward quickly and will place you on the do-not-hire list. Maintain casual and relaxed eye contact to demonstrate that you’re interested and engaged without entering coming off as creepy.

Own your chair

Unless the interview is extremely unusual, you’ll be invited to take a seat. From that moment forward, the chair is yours — so use that space to own it and project confidence. Sit with good posture (no slouching) in a relaxed and comfortable manner, and lean forward slightly to signify that you’re paying attention and ready to talk.

Keep your movement minimal

Some people talk with their hands as well as their mouths. If you’re one of them, train yourself to minimize the swooping arms and big hand gestures prior to an interview — after all, there’s no way to end an interview faster than to gesture for emphasis and knock over someone’s coffee cup or desk decoration.

The same goes for fiddling and fidgeting. If you’re constantly shaking a leg, tapping a foot, twisting a ring, twirling your hair, or clicking a pen, now is the time to break those nervous gestures — or at least learn to control them for as long as the interview lasts. This type of moment is distracting, and indicates to the interviewer that you’re uncomfortable for some reason. They’ll assume it’s because you don’t want to be there.

Make your nonverbal communication as big a priority as your verbal responses, and you’ll be ready to pass your next IT interview with flying colors. For more interviewing tips and advice, talk to the team at The Armada Group. We place top IT candidates at top companies across the nation and beyond, and we can help you prepare to ace any job interview.

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Hyperconverged technologies- The new must-have for very lean IT departments

Most small and mid-sized businesses don’t have the budget for large in-house IT departments. Many run with an IT team of five or less, and some outsource their IT functions completely. Part of the reason behind this is the high cost of corporate-level infrastructures required to run a business independent of third-party solutions — investing in private servers, sufficient storage, and a scalable virtualization layer — can add up fast.

But there’s a solution for very lean IT departments in hyperconverged technology. An exciting new development in scale-out computing, these modular systems provide a centralized node containing all the functions of an infrastructure — storage, networking, computing, and virtualization — and are easily scalable by adding more nodes.

A new hyperconverged product from Scale Computing, called HC3, presents a promising and affordable solution for IT departments with zero to five people that allows small and mid-sized business to operate on corporate grade infrastructures.

What is HC3?

Scale Computing’s HC3 is a hyperconverged node intended for very lean IT departments. There are three levels with various capabilities for scaling — the HC3 supports up to 100 VMs, the HC3x can handle up to 200, and the limited introduction HC4000 grows up to 400 VMs and scales up to eight nodes.

The key features of HC3 nodes include:

  • Extremely easy to use, capable of building VMs out of the box within one hour
  • Fully integrated server, storage, and virtualization capabilities
  • Simple, linear scalability through adding nodes
  • Low cost of entry with zero licensing fees and a free year of premium support

The core tenant of Scale is “keep it simple,” and this system reflects ease of use in every aspect. The node includes built-in VM redundancy to protect against disk failure and node or server failure, an intuitive user interface, and live migration for rolling updates that upgrade one node at a time, with no downtime.

Storage and pricing

With the HC3 system, storage is streamlined and centralized. Each VM has access to the entire storage pool, so there’s no need to specify separate storage for HBAs or iSCSI targets. Each node has four or eight drives with sizes that are customized according to your business needs.

With regard to pricing, at an entry-level list price of around $25,000 for a three-node cluster, the HC3 is much more affordable for small business compared to traditional systems. A full year of premium, 24-7 support is included with the price.

Scale’s HC3 can be up and running in just a few hours, providing professional IT for any size business — even with a zero IT staff. Self-contained hyperconverged technology is an ideal solution for the automated cloud environment businesses are shifting toward — and the affordable price of entry can level the playing field for small and mid-sized companies looking to maximize their IT.

To learn more about what your small to mid-sized IT department needs, or for help building that department, contact the experts at The Armada Group today.

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