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Spring Journal

Volume 29, Issue 2

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Jon Seals

Amazon Web Services has signed an agreement to acquire NICE, a software-as-a-service company based in Italy that helps customers optimize and centralize their HPC, cloud and visualization resources. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is expected to close in Q1 2016.

According to NICE’s sparse website, it will continue to operate under its existing brand, and continue to support and develop EnginFrame and Desktop Cloud Visualization (DCV) products.

AWS didn’t drone on about the acquisition, instead opting for a short blog post written by AWS’ Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr, to briefly sum up the news. While not a lot may be known about the acquisition at this point, it is clear there are three main reasons why AWS pulled the trigger on the deal.

...

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/02/16/three-reasons-aws-just-bought-italian-saas-firm-nice/

During historic 1998 El Niño season that created $550 million in damages, it was not until February that California experienced flooding damage that warranted a federal presidential declaration
 

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today released new data on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, showing an increase of more than 27,000 new NFIP policies written in California during the month of December 2015. There is a 30 – 90 day waiting period for new policies to be reported to FEMA and the latest available data, released today, shows an increase of more than 55,500 new flood insurance policies purchased in California from August 31 – December 31, 2015.


The nearly 25% increase for the state is the first of its kind, in any state, in the history of the National Flood Insurance Program, created in 1968.

“FEMA recognizes that a government-centric approach to emergency management is not adequate to meet the challenges posed by a catastrophic incident,” said FEMA Region 9 Administrator Robert Fenton. “Utilizing a whole community approach to emergency management reinforces that FEMA is only one part of our nation’s emergency management team and individuals are arguably the most important part of that team.”
Although the agency does not directly correlate all NFIP claims this year to El Niño, FEMA has already seen 127 National Flood Insurance Program policyholders submit claims in California during January 2016 compared to only 1 claim submitted in California for the same period during the previous year.

Although parts of FEMA Region 9 have recently been in a relative dry period, according to the National Weather Service, the impact of El Niño is not over.

“It has not been uncommon during past strong El Niño events to go through drier periods, even during the winter months,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Carpenter. “A change in the weather pattern around the last week of February may start bringing the storm track farther south and across more of California into March.”
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center forecasts climate anomalies associated with the ongoing El Niño episode are expected to result in at least minimal improvements to the drought conditions across much of California and western Nevada through the end of April.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.
Flooding can happen anywhere, but certain areas are especially prone to serious flooding. Many areas in California are at increased flood risk from El Niño, as a direct result of wildfires and drought.

Residents should be aware of a couple things:

o You can’t get flood insurance at the last minute. In most cases, it takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to go into effect. So get your policy now.
o Only Flood Insurance Covers Flood Damage. Most standard homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damage.
o Get all the coverage you need. An agent can walk you through coverage options.
o Know your flood risk. Visit FloodSmart.gov (or call 1-800-427-2419) to learn more about individual flood risk, explore coverage options and to find an agent in your area.

In September 2015, FEMA’s Region 9 office in Oakland, Calif., established an El Niño Task Force with the mission of preparing for the impact of El Niño. The task force is evaluating the core capabilities needed to protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from any flooding that occurs across the Region this winter and spring. In December 2015, FEMA Region 9 released its draft El Niño severe weather response plan and convened a Regional interagency steering committee meeting in Northern California to exercise the plan. The plan is a living document and is continuously updated as new information on the El Niño threat emerges.

FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Program and works closely with more than 80 private insurance companies to offer flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners. In order to qualify for flood insurance, the home or business must be in a community that has joined the NFIP and agreed to enforce sound floodplain management standards.
NFIP is a federal program and offers flood insurance which can be purchased through private property and casualty insurance agents. Rates are set nationally and do not differ from company to company or agent to agent.

These rates depend on many factors, which include the date and type of construction of your home, along with your building's level of risk.

Visit Ready.gov for more preparedness tips and information and follow @FEMARegion9 on Twitter.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 00:00

The Data Center Cloud Built

This month (February), we focus on data centers built to support the Cloud. As cloud computing becomes the dominant form of IT, it exerts a greater and greater influence on the industry, from infrastructure and business strategy to design and location. Webscale giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have perfected the art and science of cloud data centers. The next wave is bringing the cloud data center to enterprise IT… or the other way around!

Here’s a collection of stories that ran on Data Center Knowledge in February, focusing on the data center and the cloud:

Telco Central Offices Get Second Life as Cloud Data Centers – As AT&T and other major telcos, such as Verizon, upend their sprawling network infrastructure to make it more agile through software, most of those facilities will eventually look less like typical central offices and more like cloud data centers.

...

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/02/16/the-data-center-cloud-built/

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 00:00

The Many Ways Passwords Put Data at Risk

Just in time for tax season comes word of all kinds of security breakdowns within important tax-related organizations.

For example, there was the announcement from the IRS that it was hacked (again). As CIO explained it:

In its review, the IRS identified unauthorized attempts involving about 464,000 unique Social Security numbers. About 101,000 Social Security numbers were used to access E-file PINs.

Also, several tax preparation companies reported breaches, which were likely caused because of poor password management. One of those breached companies was TaxSlayer, whose director of customer support Lisa Daniel was quoted by eSecurity Planet:

...

http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/data-security/the-many-ways-passwords-put-data-at-risk.html

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 00:00

Designing Data Centers for the Future

In January, we focused on data center design. We looked into design best practices and examined some of the most interesting new design trends. Here are the stories we ran as part of our data center design month:

Data Center Design: Which Standards to Follow? – Codes must be followed when designing, building, and operating your data center, but “code” is the minimum performance requirement to ensure life safety and energy efficiency in most cases. A data center is going to probably be the most expensive facility your company ever builds or operates. Should it have the minimum required by code?

Startup Envisions Data Centers for Cities of the Future – The Project Rhizome team is thinking of ways to design small urban data centers so they fit in urban environments functionally, economically, and aesthetically.

...

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/02/16/designing-data-centers-for-the-future/

On Tuesday, IBM announced that is rolling out its latest version of its z13 mainframe, which, according to the company, aims to attract mid-size enterprises with a hybrid cloud mainframe designed to encrypt data without slowing down the computer's performance.

The IBM z13s, expected to be available beginning next month, is designed to encrypt and decrypt data at double the speed of previous generations because the security is embedded into the hardware.

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems, said in a statement:

With the new IBM z13s, clients no longer have to choose between security and performance. This speed of secure transactions, coupled with new analytics technology helping to detect malicious activity and integrated IBM Security offerings, will help mid-sized clients grow their organization with peace of mind.

...

http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/ibm-z13-mainframe-brings-encryption-to-hybrid-cloud-/d/d-id/1324331

The idea of fully outsourcing data infrastructure to the cloud is still novel enough to give many CIOs the shivers. But now that end-to-end data environments can be configured entirely in software, the notion is not as radical as it once was.

At the very least, the precise location of physical infrastructure is becoming less of an architectural criterion given that functions like security, governance and resource configuration are proving to be less costly and more effective when they are deployed on the application or data planes rather than a box somewhere. So this has some people wondering if we are on the cusp of a quiet revolution toward full utility-style computing, not because it is the latest must-have technology but because it is the most efficient, effective way to run a data environment.

For those who say their data is too broad or too complex to entrust to third-party infrastructure, we have only to look at Netflix, which recently shuttered its last video streaming data center to port its entire service to AWS. The company still maintains some back-office processes in-house, but the voluminous video feeds – the heart of its user-facing operation – are now 100 percent in the cloud. The company has made no secret that, given the scale and complexity of its operations, it had no choice but to turn to Amazon for support, which includes not just massive resources but a growing cadre of specialty services and feature sets.

...

http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/infrastructure/resources-at-the-ready-and-who-cares-where-they-sit.html

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Disaster recovery experts today urged applicants for federal assistance to complete a disaster loan application from the U.S. Small Business Administration.  Taking a loan is not required; completing the application can open the door to all federal assistance, including possible additional grants from FEMA.

Most Arkansans who register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will receive an automated call with information on how to complete the loan application process. Low-interest loans from the SBA are the major source of funding for disaster recovery.

SBA offers low-interest loans to homeowners, renters,  businesses of all sizes (including landlords) and private nonprofit organizations that have sustained disaster damage.  There is no cost to apply and no obligation to accept a disaster loan.

Assistance from FEMA is limited to help jump-start the recovery; it may not cover all damage or property loss. Completing the SBA Loan application may make FEMA assistance available to replace essential household items, replace or repair a damaged vehicle, or cover storage expenses.

Interest rates can be as low as 4 percent for businesses, 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations and 1.813 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years.

Eligible homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 for home repair or replacement of primary residences, and eligible homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace disaster-damaged or destroyed personal property, including a vehicle. 

Businesses of all sizes may qualify for up to $2 million in low-interest loans to help cover physical damages.

Small businesses and most private nonprofits suffering economic impact due to the severe weather and flooding can apply for up to $2 million for any combination of property damage or economic injury under SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

For additional information about SBA disaster loans, the application process, or for help completing the SBA application:

People with storm losses who still need to register with FEMA can register anytime online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov , or with a smartphone or device at m.fema.gov. Survivors can also register by phone from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362. People who use TTY can call 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators are available.

Federal disaster assistance is available to eligible residents of Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Faulkner, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Little River, Perry, Sebastian and Sevier counties that suffered damage from the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding Dec. 26, 2015 - January 22, 2016.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

The SBA is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

 
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 00:00

Fighting the War against Hackers

Cyber-attacks are inevitable.  Thankfully we have IT security teams that keep all of the technology within an organization secure from hackers, who are attempting to breach internal systems and gain control of private information.  It is important not to be narrow minded when thinking of information security.  System threats come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of the most common threats that companies face today are software attacks, property or identity theft, and even information extortion.

In recent years, there have been many companies that were victims of cyber-attacks.  You may not always be able to prevent them, but you are responsible for all of the technology and information within your company.  So one might ask, how can I protect my company, my employees and my customers from hackers?

Here are a few tips that will help safeguard your organization:

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http://www.bcinthecloud.com/2016/02/fighting-the-war-against-hackers/

(TNS) - Among the items scattered on the conference room table were a hand-cranked flashlight, a tri-fold shovel and food packets with a five-year shelf life.

They were next to the “blood stopper,” labeled as dressing for wounds and trauma, and a “survival tin,” which included a sewing kit, fishing hooks and condoms. That last item also is included to protect supplies from the elements.

“They help keep things dry,” said John Caine, manager of new business development for Quake Kare, a company that touts itself as the country’s “leading source of emergency survival kits.”

...

http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/No-matter-the-disaster-St-Louis-nonprofit-can-help-prepare-you-for-the-worst.html