Welcome to the Sentinel Blog!
We are proud to feature a carefully curated collection of articles and other content related to the most important technology topics of today and beyond. Our posts are composed and edited by Sentinel’s ALWAYS ENGAGED team of solutions architects, engineers, project managers and other subject matter experts.
Building A Better Disaster Recovery Plan
By Dr. Mike Strnad, Sentinel Strategic Business Advisor
More organizations than ever are starting to realize the importance of having a comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan in place. Should a catastrophic incident such as a flood or fire destroy all or part of your office(s), it’s essential to have a clear set of instructions detailing what to do and how to proceed to get things up and running again. Failing to regularly update your DR plan or simply not having one at all places your business at exceptional risk, potentially resulting in prohibitively high costs, loss of revenue, and/or permanent damage to your reputation.
One area that is most commonly overlooked is documentation. Having decaying or outdated documentation can severely sabotage or even destroy your DR plan. Sentinel understands this, which is why our Advisory Services Group has put together a Business Continuity Executive-Level Overview that helps executives identify:
• Flaws in Business Impact Management
• Unidentified Risks
• Flaws in Incident Management
• Limitations of your current Disaster Recovery Plan
The overview concentrates on areas of vital importance that link back to a successful and dependable Disaster Recovery Plan. Some potential issues our certified experts help to uncover include:
• Old documents that have not been reviewed within a year
• New security incidents that have been occurring where risks have not been identified
• New or retired assets (servers, applications, personnel) that influenced the development of the current Disaster Recovery Plan
To learn more about the ways Sentinel’s Advisory Services Group can help your business to develop an effective and up-to-date Disaster Recovery plan, please contact us or your local Sentinel sales representative.
The Importance of a Business Continuity Plan
By Dr. Mike Strnad, Sentinel Strategic Business Advisor
Plan. Do. Check. Act. These words should be engraved in the minds technology professionals. As the focus on security continues to grow, it’s never been more imperative for organizations to have a solid Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place should a breach, ransomware, or other catastrophe occur. BCPs get created and become stale very quickly. Susan Snedaker and Chris Rima wrote an interesting book titled “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning for IT Professionals”. In it, they described the birth of business continuity and disaster recovery, stating that this topic was originally not on the mind of many organizations.
Modern technology services allow you work faster than ever, with greater flexibility and more efficiency. As a result, recovering from a disaster big or small should be easier. But a recovery is only effective with good preparation and a well-understood disaster recovery plan. BCPs become outdated, as do knowledge base articles. These should be considered “living documents” and adjusted regularly. An efficient, reviewed, and updated BCP will not only improve your speed to recover from a catastrophe, but it will also save you money and ultimately protect and enhance your business reputation.
The key first step in creating a BCP is to understand exactly how your business operates. The better you understand the core elements of your business, the more effective the BCP will be. Looking closely at Business Impact Management, Risk Management, and Incident Response Management can help lead to an effective Disaster Recovery plan. All 4 of these elements are vital to any well-written, reviewed, and executed BCP.
Many technology and business executives have not gone through an actual DR scenario where dollars were on the line until recovery was established. Sentinel’s Advisory Services Group has this experience, and found that a plan is only as good as the accuracy of the information. Time is money, and a stale BCP could result in a lot of lost revenue.
Ultimately, it is important to review your BCP after significant changes, testing, or incidents and provide feedback. Talk to your employees and analyze what went well and what did not. The more staff members are involved in the planning and development of the BCP, the better and more efficient it will become. An Executive High-Level Business Readiness Overview could provide visibility into your process and identify gaps. Our Advisory Services team is well versed in this process and look to bring the value of our collective experience to benefit our customers. Please contact us or your local Sentinel sales representative to learn more about how we can help your organization establish a plan to bounce back quickly in the event of a disaster.
Common Misconceptions About ITIL
By Dr. Mike Strnad, Sentinel Strategic Business Advisor
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) can be highly beneficial to organizations that follow the approaches, techniques, and methodologies it recommends. When implemented properly, businesses generally experience increases in the overall quality and return on investment made in their IT products, solutions, and services. Unfortunately, since its conception ITIL has been plagued with false rumors, myths, and general disinformation that have frequently resulted in confusion and opacity about what it is and the advantages it can provide. In an attempt to add some clarity to the conversation, here are five popular misconceptions about ITIL, paired with the correct information.
1. ITIL is a set of standards that must strictly be adhered to.
- ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the specific needs of a business.
2. ITIL is only for big companies.
- ITIL is a process approach that can be tailored to fit any business no matter the size.
3. ITIL is incompatible with other practices.
- ITIL is a framework, methodology, or philosophy that provides answers to all questions, doesn’t require a significant change in working practices, and doesn’t require additional guidance from outside its own closed space.
4. ITIL is for internal use only.
- ITIL represents a way for service providers to figure out what the customer values without having to bother the customer with trivial questions. The inability to do so is an indication of missing skills and ignoring a standard.
5. ITIL is primarily about processes.
- ITIL describes the capabilities required for delivering services as a set of 26 processes and four functions, divided between five lifecycle stages.
If you are interested in learning more about ITIL and the many ways it can benefit your organization, please contact us or your local Sentinel sales representative.
Sentinel's Culture and Core Values
By Holly Gomez, Sentinel Support Services Manager
A key characteristic that many individuals look for when seeking employment or to contract services is a company that has core values and a culture that matches their own personal values and goals. Having worked here for six years, I can certainly say that Sentinel Technologies has more than lived up to my expectations. I also believe that our core values are the number one contributor to our success.
Sentinel’s primary core value is uncompromised integrity. We strive to implement quality solutions that meet the unique business needs of our customers. By establishing a foundation of honesty and having a commitment to doing the right thing, Sentinel has created a positive culture where employees feel their contributions work toward a goal worth achieving. The integrity with which Sentinel approaches every customer interaction also sets us apart from our competitors. We are committed to ensuring that our solutions are carried out according to best practices, and the end result ensures customer satisfaction. If any issues arise, we stand behind our products and solutions.
Another key focus at Sentinel is quality of service. Our strategy in providing the highest quality implementations is to employ the most talented, creative, and technically experienced people in the IT industry. This has resulted in excellence in our core offerings, as well as a variety of cutting edge and value-driven products and services. Our Strategic Advisory and Security as a Service offerings are great examples of how Sentinel has utilized its top performers and talent to develop solutions that meet emerging market needs for our customers. One of our clients recently commented:
“I wanted to take a moment again to acknowledge all the people at Sentinel who have done so much to make my job a little easier. We just finished several projects with Sentinel, a survey implementation on our Call Center implementation, the completion of our UC upgrade with the Jabber implementation, and we are drawing to the close of a Premium upgrade on our UCCX with a chat implementation. [Sentinel employee] has been an outstanding engineer to work with. He stays on task, takes the time to ask if we have questions, and makes sure features are functioning as designed. Sentinel engineers always prompt me to see if there is anything I need, rather than having to chase them down to get something done. I am still amazed by the overall quality of the engineers Sentinel has.”
Our third hallmark value is that we are relationship-oriented. At Sentinel, our business is not just about the bottom line. Sentinel has a myriad of programs to help their employees know that they are valued and appreciated, including chair massages, health and wellness programs, holiday gatherings, employee appreciation outings and lunches, take your child to work day, and celebrations when staff members have special life events. Sentinel also invests in its staff by providing training opportunities and equipping each of our team members to reach their full potential. We strive to not only be co-workers, but to truly care about one another.
I certainly consider the Sentinel Michigan Team to be my second family. I have developed some life-long relationships as a part of my career with this company. This same focus translates out to our customers. We strive to build relationships built on mutual respect with our clients. We host regular customer events to introduce customers to our new products and develop long-lasting partnerships. One recent example is our movie event that we hosted last May in Novi, MI with our friends at Meraki. Over 150 customers attended and had a great time. But customers aren’t just a number at Sentinel. We take the time to get to know our clients, understand their environments and business needs, and strive to be an involved technology partner. Our goal is to always provide service with a personal touch and make sure our clients know that they can rely on us when it counts.
These three core values, uncompromised integrity, quality of service, and relationship orientation, make Sentinel a premier place to develop a life-long career and set us apart as one of the best companies in the technology industry. I am proud to be a team member at Sentinel and look forward to all that is to come as we continue to grow, open new offices, and expand into new and emerging markets. All of that is thanks to a culture that attracts and keeps top talent, motivates our staff to be the best version of themselves, and ensures our customers receive the excellent service they deserve.
Five Reasons to Give Cisco Umbrella a Shot
By Odell Waters, Sentinel Senior Solutions Architect
While they remain an important part of any security architecture, next-generation firewalls alone no longer provide enough protection to businesses, because the perimeter continues to evolve and change on a regular basis. Perimeter security used to be about protecting the corporate network where it meets with the outside world (internet, private lines, etc.). The perimeter now extends beyond the network to any host or device that roams off and on the network, which includes end users with corporate laptops and mobile devices.
So the challenge is now about how to protect your corporate assets and network in an increasingly mobile world, where security tends to only cover users while they are on premise. If corporate assets aren’t protected when off premise, that’s when you are most vulnerable. If that host winds up infected with malware unbeknownst to the end user, it will most likely spread once that asset connects back to the corporate network.
This is why a solution like Cisco Umbrella can deliver the advanced protection required to handle the security challenges and intricacies organizations are facing today. Here are five really good reasons to give Umbrella a try, if you haven’t already:
1. Umbrella uses DNS to stop threats over all ports and protocols — even direct-to-IP connections.
2. Stops malware before it reaches your endpoints or network.
3. Proactively enforce policies to prevent users from visiting malicious places on the web, with no hardware to install and no software to maintain.
4. Gain a complete picture of real-time internet activity for on-network and roaming devices, with reports on security, usage, compliance, and cloud services.
5. Deploys in minutes. Umbrella is easy to manage, with centralized policy templates.
Sentinel offers a 21-Day SECaaS Proof of Value (POV) demonstration that can easily be deployed in your business. Contact us to learn more and see for yourself how Umbrella can help ensure your users and data are safer and more protected than ever.
A Sentinel Recap of Cisco Live! (Part Two)
Alex Tracy, Sentinel Sales Executive
Viva Las Vegas! Or should I say Viva Las Cisco? The week of Cisco Live 2017 was a complete whirlwind for me, and not just because of the conference. Two days before the trip I got married on the other side of the country. That, in combination with four long days of Cisco Live, left me completely exhausted. But it was a good kind of exhaustion, where in spite of everything you feel like you wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything else in the world.
As a Sales Executive and Account Manager at Sentinel for almost five years now, this was my second annual Cisco Live convention. I spent most of my time this year at the Sentinel booth, talking and networking with a wide variety of professionals from throughout the technology industry. It was also great to catch up with some current customers and local Cisco reps in attendance.
If you’ve never been to Cisco Live, it’s something everyone who works in IT should go to at least once in their career. Cisco spares no expense, and it is an epic four days of education and entertainment! The experience is also incredibly humbling, because there are so many different types of people and companies represented from the technology industry that it helps you realize most of us are just small fish in a big pond.
The convention floor teemed with energy from end to end. A majority of the people I had conversations with at the booth were at Cisco Live for two reasons: To establish new contacts and/or learn new things. Many used Cisco Learning Credits to attend, so if you went this year but didn’t know or didn’t have any to spend, be sure to ask your local Cisco rep to include some in a future deal. No matter what the reasons were or how everybody got there, in the end it was all about thousands of people gathering in one place to celebrate technology and find inspiration for the future. Thank you Sentinel and Cisco for an incredible week and memories that will last a lifetime!
Stephanie Hackbarth, Sentinel Sales Executive
Cisco Live 2017 was another great event. It was wonderful to see familiar faces in a different setting and feel their support despite being far away from home. Each year Sentinel strives to outdo the last, and we always leave with fresh ideas about what we can bring to the table the next year. Cisco Live also presented a great opportunity to meet people face-to-face that wouldn’t run into anywhere else. Many of them were eager to talk about security, which we found was a huge topic of interest for most attendees this year. Sentinel held a customer appreciation event one night, and it was such a great opportunity for everyone to relax and be themselves – no classes or training to worry about, just time to really get to know everyone and share good conversation with people that share the same passion for the IT industry.
A Sentinel Recap of Cisco Live! (Part One)
By Dan Ristovski, Sentinel Solution Design Team Lead
Cisco Live 2017 was awesome! The highlight for me this year was being able to meet with my Cisco Champions group and share some great information. The group is made up of dedicated Cisco community experts that help spread the word about Cisco and assist others that need guidance with product choices and capabilities. We also provide key feedback directly to Cisco BU resources to help improve their products.
Beyond a fun and rewarding get-together with all of the great Cisco Champions, I was able to attend a number of roadmap sessions that showcased Cisco’s future business plans and new technology in development for release over the next 6-12 months. I wish I could share some of those exciting details here, but can’t due to a non-disclosure agreement. I can assure you, there’s some pretty sweet stuff in the works!
The technical sessions were also very informative and impressive. Every session this year was integrated with Cisco Spark, which allowed attendees to submit questions in real time and get updated information that might not have made the slide decks. Even though the conference is over, most of the sessions remain active since new questions are still being submitted and answered.
One thing to understand about Cisco Live is that it’s not always about the technical side of things. The World of Solutions showcase was amazing! There were many vendors and manufacturers represented this year, but the biggest standout in my opinion was data analytics. Companies are becoming increasingly invested in solutions that enable them to see everything that is happening on their networks, including how applications are performing and ways they can improve user experiences.
There were also a ton of different social events that took place after the sessions. This was a great way to decompress and talk with peers. I am looking forward to digesting everything I have learned during this Cisco Live conference and sharing the information with my customers!
I’m already excited for Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando. If you’ve never attended a Cisco Live conference, I strongly encourage you to do so. There is so much incredible information to absorb, as well as important new contacts to be made that can help your organization navigate any tough technology decisions you might encounter. Just make sure to pack light, because your suitcase somehow doubles in size when you leave!
Rethinking the IT Strategic Roadmap
By Ted Joffs, Sentinel IT Solutions Team Lead
An IT Strategic Roadmap is a plan to achieve long- and short-term goals using a technology product. While that is an accurate way to describe it, I believe it’s a rather shallow way of looking at things. When taken from a more holistic perspective, a proper IT Strategic Roadmap – or any roadmap for that matter – can be a key driver in the success of the overall business unit. To utilize these roadmaps in such a way, it becomes necessary to shift your focus from the product itself and onto the process. When done right, it can create unparalleled insight into your business and improve technology decisions.
In order to properly do this, you must first identify the product that will be the focus of the roadmap in question. In some cases you can be specific, but at the start it’s more beneficial to avoid doing so whenever possible. Using vendor and/or technology-specific language can limit your options, and the product you select may need to provide more than one feature or function. Here’s an example of some qualities you might be looking for in a particular product, ordered from highest priority to lowest:
1. Provides user authentication for systems access across a broad spectrum of environments.
2. Provides a framework for storing user access control information.
3. Provides a foundational infrastructure for development of a security boundary to ensure information security.
4. Allows for easy integration into other systems and environments using industry standard protocols.
There are a number of products that would fit these sample criteria, including NetIQ eDirectory, Active Directory, IBM Tivoli Directory Server, OpenLDAP, or Samba4. Keeping it broad like that allows for greater flexibility.
Using that list, you can create a matrix to match each of the products with the key requirements from the business and IT departments. This will help you to start eliminating options and select the best solution for your organization. From there, you should build out your roadmap to include:
+Key Business & Technology Sponsors
+A Review Schedule
+Scope and Boundaries – You have essentially already done this, but roadmaps are living and breathing documents that should be cyclic in nature, so this data needs to be included for future cycle reviews.
The entire development process can be quite complex and includes more fine details than what are covered here, but the time and effort you put into creating the right plan will ensure you get the absolute most out of each technology purchase your organization makes. The most important keys to remember during this or really any IT planning engagement can be summed up as follows:
+Don’t plan, roadmap, purchase, budget, or develop in a box. IT needs to engage the business, and the business needs to engage IT. Use a consultant to help bridge the gap if needed.
+Keep an open mind. Be technology agnostic. Your way may not always be the right way. Be flexible.
+Don’t neglect your plan. Keep it up to date and review it with all stakeholders on a periodic basis.
Remember: if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. Please contact Sentinel if you would like to learn more about IT Strategic Roadmaps. Our advisory services and certified experts can help your business navigate this challenging process and establish unique plans to stimulate improvement and growth!
Sentinel at Cisco Live 2017
Cisco Live is an annual five day conference put together by Cisco focused on providing education and inspiration for businesses as they navigate the complex digital landscape of our world today. This year’s event takes place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas from June 25-29, and includes talks/presentations from many high profile IT thought leaders, educational sessions, and a chance to connect and network with many of Cisco’s top partners and vendors.
As a Cisco Gold Partner, Sentinel is excited to attend this year’s Cisco Live. We will have a booth (#1413) in the World of Solutions area where members of our highly trained and certified staff will be available to discuss the many technology solutions, products, and services we offer, as well as answer any questions you might have. We would love it if you stop by, even if it’s just to say hello!
Those interested in learning more about Sentinel’s SecuritySelect and Security as a Service (SECaaS) are encouraged to join us at the Data Center & Cloud Education Zone on Tuesday, June 27th between 10am and Noon for a series of short presentations from Sentinel Sales Executives Brett Merriman, Alex Tracy and others. Our Vice President of Enterprise Technology Ryan Santry will also provide a longer, more in-depth look at security in a special presentation on Wednesday, June 28th from 3:40-3:50pm. The Data Center & Cloud Education Zone will be located in the Cisco Powered area of the convention center.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a fun break from the conference, Sentinel is hosting a Customer Appreciation Event at Tom’s Urban in the New York New York casino on Wednesday, June 28th from 4-7pm. There will be drinks and a great opportunity to spend quality time with your friends at Sentinel! RSVP here.
The Benefits of Sentinel's Security Operations Center (SOC)
Sentinel’s Security Operations Center (SOC) is based around two key things: our people and our process. If you’ve signed up for security intelligence meetings with us, you’re getting the expertise and advice of our people, but with very little insight into our process. We will work with your organization and recommend additional protection for certain areas of your business, which can be very beneficial at a high level.
When you sign up for our SOC service, we’re taking an active role in the process of keeping your company safe from outside threats. That includes 24x7x365 monitoring across your entire network, including every user and every device, whether it’s a phone, laptop or Internet of Things (IoT) object. This is especially important because those devices are becoming increasingly attractive targets for malware and other types of attacks.
Our SOC comes with Sentinel’s CloudSelect Threat Exchange (CTX), which is an additional layer of security integration and automation centered on intelligence trends gathered from all of our security customers. CTX works in tandem with our federation server to issue alerts at the first sign of trouble. If you are a Sentinel Security as a Service (SECaaS) customer, all of those alerts show up on your portal.
Attackers will look for a weakness in your network, and do their best to exploit it to obtain an objective. More often than not they will rely on user error to gain access, such as sending out emails with false credentials that install malware on your device. From there, it can work its way around the network. Once that install point is reached and beyond, Sentinel automatically generates a service ticket.
Our SOC analysts immediately get to work investigating the problem to determine how credible of a threat it might be. If it’s a false positive that might show up again, they can inform the development team to push that out to the rest of our customers so it helps everyone to learn and doesn’t continue to get flagged. If the threat appears to be real and a potential danger to your organization, we will notify you with a phone call and an email explaining that we are investigating the threat and will provide remediation guidance as needed.
Let’s say one of your employees winds up with an infected iPhone. A bad piece of software is trying to send data to an attacker and then spread into the rest of your network by breaking through your intrusion protection system (IPS). After some initial alerts from your cybersecurity, suddenly it goes quiet. But just because an attack seems to have stopped doesn’t mean that it actually is. It’s likely still running on your system, waiting until your log in somewhere so it can gain access and continue to steal or lock up your data. Our SOC is there to detect those things, and make sure your team knows they need to remediate and clean it up as quickly as possible.
One of the things that Sentinel has that most SOCs do not have is a very established and mature Managed Services team. Most problems can be remediated remotely. If you have a Managed Services contract with us, our technicians will remediate any security issues with your devices or environment ourselves. If you do not have Sentinel Managed Services with our SECaaS and SOC, we will provide your team with up to two hours of remediation guidance per service ticket.
So think of SECaaS as the technology, there to prevent an attack from infecting and causing damage to your environment, while SOC services are the people and the process, as our team analyzes, investigates, notifies and provides guidance on what to do should a breach occur. They represent a powerful combination and tremendous value against today’s increasingly complex threats. If you would like to learn more about Sentinel’s SECaaS and SOC services, please contact us.