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.
Kids Take Over Sentinel
Sentinel Technologies joined companies across the country on Thursday, April 27th to celebrate national Take Your Child to Work Day. Kids joined their parents for a fun day at each of our locations, learning about day-to-day work life, touring the facilities, and learning about all the different departments that make up Sentinel’s team.
We kicked off the morning at our Downers Grove headquarters with registration and breakfast in the cafeteria. Everybody snacked on bagels, mini muffins, milk and juice. A good breakfast was essential for the fun-filled day ahead!
Then it was time to explore. Our tour leaders guided two groups out of the lunchroom for a walkthrough of our facility. One tour had a superhero theme, while the other brought Halloween to April with a haunted tour! Each department decorated their doors and played music to help bring the themes to life.
The kids learned how our different teams work together from beginning to end to deliver for our clients. They stopped by our pre-sales team, checked in on customer service, visited the Network Operations Center (NOC), headed to post-sales to meet project management, and then trekked upstairs to meet the engineers. Along the way they got to ring the big bell hanging outside the lobby, pop bubble wrap in the warehouse, and see where the trucks back up to our dock.
The tour helped them with their next mission, a scavenger hunt around the office for eggs to redeem for prize bags filled with candy! Once that was finished, each child spent time at their parent’s desk or workstation to learn about what they do, and how they work with their team.
After a couple of hours, kids under the age of eight were either picked up for the day or headed home with their parents, while the older kids got the chance to dive a little deeper into Sentinel with informational sessions focused on recruiting, administration, and social media. The sessions were both informational and engaging. In the social media session, the kids even made their own hashtag for the day: #TeachTheNextGenOfKids.
They then headed back into the NOC for a closer look at all the innovative components we use there and in our voice lab. The final stop before lunch was in our TelePresence room, where we used our Cisco Collaboration tools to create a video conference between our other offices across the country and check-in with the other kids participating in Take Your Child to Work Day!
It’s hard to say who had more fun, the kids or our employees! Like their social media hashtag said, we were happy to have them in the office and share what we do with the next generation of young innovators. And who knows, they may eventually follow in their parents’ footsteps and become the next generation of Sentinel employees!
The Secrets Behind Sentinel's Security-as-a-Service
By Robert Keblusek, Sentinel Chief Technology Officer
Sentinel’s Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) contains a number of features and plugins designed to help enhance the protection of your business and critical data. Key (and unique) among them is our CloudSelect Threat Exchange (CTX). What it does is build an additional layer of security integration and automation based around intelligence trends gathered from all of our security customers. It is an incredibly powerful tool that is one of our secret weapons, and it’s included with our SECaaS.
Say that a business uses Cisco AMP for Endpoint as part of its security infrastructure. Upon receiving a security alert through AMP, our investigation discovers that some kind of anomaly is causing the system to register a false positive. Using CTX we are able to quickly and easily put in a directive to ignore that harmless piece, then push it out to all the rest of our security customers so nobody gets those false positives. CTX is always learning. The more customers we have using our Security-as-a-Service, the more visibility we have, the more intelligence we build and can incorporate into CTX.
If you’re looking for a very basic security service, Sentinel offers incident logging and event management. However, when combined with our SecuritySelect IDS (intrusion detection sensor) you receive heightened visibility, multiple points of detection and additional capabilities beyond what most managed security offerings can provide. An IDS is really going to see what’s happening on your network and enable you to make the most informed decisions when it comes to security. It’s even more effective when working in tandem with CTX, because it helps to filter out a lot of repeat and unimportant incidents before they even reach the SECaaS manager. That drastic reduction in reported events is far less taxing on your infrastructure and reduces overall costs.
In addition to the protection that our SECaaS with CTX provides, I would also strongly recommend establishing monthly intelligence meetings with Sentinel. Even if you have your own security team carefully keeping track of logs and monitoring suspicious activity, each meeting with us functions like a mini assessment. Our expert analysts closely examine your SECaaS system, provide an in-depth activity and incident report, then sit down with your team to explain what we’re seeing and offer recommendations on ways to improve your security posture. Often these are environmental changes or optimization of existing investments so that you are getting the most from your cyber protection assets.
A customer recently signed up for security intelligence meetings with us, but expressed concern about how much value they would get out of it. They got a nice write-up, interacted with our team, and quickly began to see the benefits. While this alone isn’t our full Security Operations Center (SOC) service with 24x7x365 monitoring and alerts (which is something we also offer), these meetings do provide important insights you can’t get anywhere else.
If you are interested in learning more about Sentinel’s security offerings, including SECaaS with CTX and monthly intelligence meetings, please contact us. We are able to provide support and have custom plugins for just about any security platform on the market offering you a powerful management tool, detection and response solution along with some of the best technical staff in the industry. When you think of cyber security, think of Sentinel SecuritySelect and ask us how we can help!
Top Trends Friday: Then and Now
Top Trends Friday has become a weekly staple across Sentinel’s social media platforms. We reach out to our elite experts for their insight into the technology industry and related verticals to find the solutions and products making the biggest impact. We then share those trends every Friday afternoon to kick off the weekend.
This week, we wanted to reflect on some of our favorite Top Trends from last year and provide updates to highlight their continued impact today.
After being acquired by Cisco last fall, OpenDNS was renamed Cisco Umbrella and became part of the Cisco Security Ecosystem. Umbrella offers the industry’s first secure internet gateway. Since the acquisition, Sentinel has added Cisco Umbrella to our SecuritySelect portfolio, which delivers a comprehensive approach to business security.
Meraki Wireless has also expanded significantly since last year. In October they announced the MR30H access point, created with the hospitality and retail industries in mind.
They also released the MS350-24X, a multi-gig switch to support the MR53. This new switch offers visibility and control over thousands of ports, as well as built-in multi-site management and zero touch provisioning.
Meraki’s Cloud dashboard received a refresh too, making it more user friendly.
Business Continuity Planning
Business Continuity Planning is one of many services offered by Sentinel’s Strategic Advisory Group. This division of our company has expanded since last spring, and now combines technology advisory and business processes to deliver comprehensive analysis and alignment services to our clients.
Business Continuity Planning continues to be a top priority for organizations and includes a suite of assessments. Some of these include Business Impact Analysis, Disaster Recovery, and Runbook, along with Backup and Retention Planning. Customers can get the discussions started with our free alignment workshops, such as one focused on the NIST Cybersecurity framework.
Technology is constantly advancing. In 12 short months, these 3 solutions have expanded and changed exponentially, yet remained prominent. We rely on our experts to stay on the cutting edge of solutions to provide our clients with most effective and efficient solutions for their organization. Check in with our social media accounts at the end of each work week for our Top Trends Friday to stay ahead of the curve!
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Customer Service
By the Sentinel Customer Service Team
Sentinel was founded in 1982 as a technology maintenance and repair company. While our scope and offerings have expanded with new innovations throughout the industry, our core mission remains the same: to provide the highest quality IT solutions, customer service, and support so businesses can maximize their productivity and growth.
Customer Service is the beating heart of Sentinel’s operations. Our team works closely with customers to ensure that any problems or issues concerning Sentinel solutions within their IT environment are handled quickly and directly no matter when or where they occur. Customers can place service calls 24x7x365 using our online portal or 800 number, where agents are standing by ready to help. Some customers also have dedicated phone numbers, which allows our agents to answer calls with a special greeting written by the customer.
Our highest priority in Customer Service is on providing a quality experience that is fast, reliable and friendly. We understand that when someone calls in because their entire network is down, they want to speak to a real person and not an answering machine or automated system. That is why we invest so much time and effort to train our agents and emphasize the critical values of listening, patience and friendliness.
Of course agents also need to be highly knowledgeable in all aspects of the products and solutions we provide, so they can properly interpret a customer’s issue and escalate it as needed using the correct channels and/or technicians. Keeping up with all the new technologies and systems is one of the most challenging aspects of our jobs, but we pride ourselves on the ability to adapt quickly in an ever-changing industry.
At the end of the day, perhaps the best and most rewarding thing about working in Sentinel’s Customer Service is being part of a great team. The comradery in the Customer Service department is much like that of a family; we not only support our customers, but also each other on a daily basis. That atmosphere of teamwork, trust and professionalism is what enables us to deliver such efficient, dependable and responsive service to our customers when they need it most.
Sentinel Stands for Equal Pay
In the U.S., women earn about 76 cents per dollar earned by men on average, but the causes of the gender pay gap are a bit more complicated. Sentinel is committed to doing our part to close the gender pay gap. We have conducted a pay gap analysis every year since 2003 to ensure women and minorities are equitably paid throughout the organization.
Pay equality is an important issue for all of us, and by taking the Equal Pay Pledge on Glassdoor, we are formally telling our employees, candidates and the world that we are committed to equitable pay practices. The more companies stand up for equal pay, the closer we get to closing the pay gap and making salary equity a reality for all.
Sentinel stands alongside more than 3,000 organizations that have taken the equal pay pledge. We hope you’ll join us in this important conversation and share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn that you #StandForEqualPay with us.
Sentinel Event Calendar Update
Sentinel regularly hosts events for our customers at various locations across the country. It provides us an opportunity to establish a closer and more personal relationship with those in attendance, and lend our unique expertise to highlight new and emerging technologies designed to optimize and protect the way you do business. We have a handful of fun and educational events coming up over the next month, and want to make sure you are aware of them. Please visit the individual event pages to RSVP and learn more!
**Thursday, March 23rd**
Join Sentinel and Cisco at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Las Vegas for a special lunch and learn focused on next generation security. As cyber-attacks continue to grow in frequency and sophistication, it is more important than ever to have a complete defense strategy in place to monitor, protect and remediate against them. Our experts will explain the best ways to defend your business before, during and after an attack, as well as showcase the innovative security provided by Cisco Umbrella. Click here to RSVP.
**Friday, March 24th**
Learn all about the latest data protection strategies and take part in a wild indoor skydiving adventure at this fun event hosted by Sentinel’s Phoenix office. Our partners from Veeam, APC and Nimble will be on hand at iFly Phoenix to discuss the best ways to keep your data safe, your business compliant and your end users productive yet secure. Following the presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to experience the thrill and rush of skydiving without ever having to jump out of a plane. Click here to RSVP.
**Thursday, March 30th**
Hyperconvergence is an innovative solution that unifies a variety of physical and virtual technologies so businesses can more easily adjust their data center resources and promote growth, productivity, and mobility. Sentinel and Cisco are hosting a lunch and learn presentation at our Downers Grove, IL headquarters focused on how hyperconvergence can redefine your data center and enhance your organization. Those in attendance will also be able to participate in an interactive demonstration of Cisco HyperFlex. Click here to RSVP.
**Tuesday, April 4th**
Sentinel’s downtown Chicago office is holding a special lunch and learn with Cisco to discuss the latest innovations in cyber security to keep your business safe. 95% of large companies are targeted by malicious traffic, and 100% of organizations have interacted with web sites that host malware. The better you’re able to defend your enterprise network and infrastructure from attack, the lower the possibility of a breach that results in a significant loss of data, money and reputation. Our experts will explain simple ways to add layers of protection without creating additional complexity. Click here to RSVP.
**Thursday, April 13th**
If you are unable to attend one of Sentinel’s events in person, we are hosting a webinar on the morning of April 13th that is focused on security and our Security Operations Center (SOC). It offers advanced, proactive security protection options for on premise, cloud and distributed business environments. Your security infrastructure is monitored 24x7x365 in combination with security incident and event management as well as intrusion detection. This webinar will be led by Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek and should last about an hour. Click here to register.
**Friday, April 21st**
Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek will be at Chinook Tavern in Denver for a very special lunch and learn about next generation security. Learn about the latest methods attackers are utilizing to breach your network and steal critical data, talk about your current challenges, and get advice on ways to keep your business safe. Mr. Keblusek will review Sentinel’s SecuritySelect solutions, with an emphasis on our Security as a Service and Security Operations Center offerings. Following the presentation there will be a roundtable discussion to answer any questions and dive even deeper into the state of business security today. Click here to RSVP.
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Accounting Department
By Gail Bianucci and Kathryn Lipps
The Sentinel Accounting Department processes and manages the transactions for products, solutions and services purchased by our customers. It may seem simple or straightforward in theory, but the reality is a bit more complicated. No two customers or solutions are alike, so our processes are different for each one.
The core of our activities are handled through the Sentinel Transaction System (STS), within which all sales or deals are entered. The STS supports all receivable and payable functions in conjunction with our corporate software system. A typical day for the Accounts Receivable (AR) team begins with a morning email generated by the STS system that displays all newly created sales agreements. Each deal is closely reviewed and verified before it is approved for purchasing with special note indicating the sales type, site location, contractual terms that will determine the invoicing schedule, and any unique or specific instructions requested by the customer. Daily AR tasks also include updating deal shipment status, Project Change Requests (PCRs), and assisting customers with additional invoice information as needed.
Billing for online store orders, equipment/licensing only deals, HANS agreements, and time & materials (T&M) professional services are processed daily, however the majority of invoicing activity culminates during the last week of each month. Recurring services for maintenance, monitoring, cloud, WebEx, consulting, onsite engineering, and projects all invoice during this time, which requires coordination and communication with various departments. For example, when preparing project invoicing, our team utilizes several reports from the EPMO and distribution department to gather information regarding the project status for equipment in staging and professional services, which allows us to generate accurate and timely billing amounts for each project phase.
The Accounts Payable (AP) team manages and processes vendor/supplier invoice approval and settlement, bank statements reconciliation, and inventory tracking. Daily AP tasks include responding to vendor/supplier inquiries, processing payments, and verifying expenses. This team also communicates and coordinates with various departments through reporting tools.
The accounting department supports all ten nationwide Sentinel Technologies locations with diverse customers who have diverse needs. As a result, our responsibilities and processes are constantly evolving, producing a dynamic that is fast-paced and creative. There’s rarely a dull moment!
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Technology Repair Services
By Paul Rybka, Terry Mitchell and Tom Hill, Sentinel Bench Repair Technicians
Everybody with a computer is familiar with that moment of panic when a hard drive crashes or a monitor goes blank. If you work in business, it tends to feel like that always happens at the most inopportune time, like when a deadline is approaching or a project is just about finished. Since nearly every individual today is armed with a computer or mobile device where so much valuable information is stored, the loss of critical data and functions can have a significant impact on our lives.
The very nature of electronics repair, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for technicians to update and advise customers on computer-related issues. Sentinel’s core strength lies in our team of certified, highly trained and experienced electronics and computer technicians. We are fully prepared to handle maintenance and repair needs for any technology product, as our skills extend to a wide variety of niche areas and continue to expand as innovations and changes occur throughout the industry.
As long as physical electronics such as computers and mobile devices exist, there will always be a need for them to be repaired, serviced or installed. Sentinel understands this better than anybody, since we were founded in 1982 as a maintenance and technology repair company. While our portfolio of offerings has grown exponentially over the years, those original services remain available today to our customers. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our maintenance and repair services.
Five Simple Infrastructure Management Tips
By Ted Joffs, IT Solutions Team Lead
As an IT solutions specialist and team lead at Sentinel, I work with a wide variety of products and systems – some ancient, some newer, some cutting edge. While each project is a unique adventure and learning experience, I’ve noticed that many businesses facing issues often share similar symptoms that could easily have been prevented had they followed a few basic steps to properly safeguard and maintain their infrastructure. Here are five easy ways to extend the life and safety of your system:
1) If you are still running any version of Microsoft Exchange older than 2010, you need to upgrade immediately. Not tomorrow, not in 15 minutes, right now. Microsoft has stopped all support for pre-2010 versions of Exchange, meaning your servers are not protected from any new or emerging security threats. Critical data and key systems are at risk, so don’t wait to upgrade until it’s too late!
2) Your Active Directory is your company’s lifeblood. Data is important, but if you can't get to it because your AD is not replicating, fails, or is older than molasses, you will wish you had kept it up-to-date. At the very least I’d recommend running a "dcdiag" once a month to check for and correct any AD errors so things continue to run smoothly.
3) If your hypervisor is more than two versions back, no matter what you’re using – VMware, Hyper-V, Xen/XenServer, VirtualBox, or something completely custom – keep it updated! Hypervisor functionality, OS support, VM versions, virtual hardware, etc. all develop and change quickly, so you should too.
4) If you own a storage array such as a NAS, SAN, Filer, or FreeNAS JBOD and you aren’t currently monitoring it, you need to address that ASAP Like stop reading and get a monitoring platform right now. Storage monitoring provides important insight and visibility into utilization and application layers, as well as issues alerts when encountering thresholds or bottlenecks.
5) If you are a manager, director, VP, C-Level, or even an owner and one of your employees recommends something like buying more SAN or upgrading a particular component, you should probably hear them out. They probably wouldn’t make such a suggestion without a valid reason.
The common theme in these tips is to make sure that the key components of your company’s infrastructure remain up-to-date and carefully monitored. That might seem like a no brainer to most people, but you’d be surprised at how often these things slip through the cracks during day-to-day operations. If your IT department is under-staffed or you would simply like more time to focus on growth and innovation, Sentinel offers a variety of proactive maintenance and support services that will monitor, update and repair critical portions of your infrastructure. Please contact us for additional information.
Q & A on Hyperconvergence
Last week at our Downers Grove headquarters, Sentinel held a special lunch & learn event highlighting the benefits of hyperconvergence. The customers in attendance enjoyed a presentation from Sentinel experts and also had the opportunity to engage with a live demonstration of Cisco Hyperflex. In case you missed this highly informative and entertaining session, we’re hosting another one on March 30th in our Business Solution Center. We hope you can join us! As a preview of what to expect, here is a brief Q&A on hyperconvergence from Sentinel Solutions Architect Geoff Woodhouse:
**If you’re starting out with nothing and want to venture into the hyperconverged space, what would you recommend doing first?**
At the very least, start with a 3 node with 2 fabric interconnects system and build up from there. Sentinel can work with you to determine what exactly you need. Sizing can be a little tricky because we’ve got to know what your workload is like, what are your metrics, CPU, memory, how many IOPS and other kinds of things. After we have that information we can make a recommendation that’s best for your particular business.
**What’s the best path if you have a hybrid solution and want to eventually adopt Hyperflex?**
We’ve had people want to install Hyperflex to replace a storage area network (SAN) but keep their blades. In that case we would typically recommend something like a middle-of-the-road processor with a lot of disk. So for example you’d get 3 nodes with 30 TB and allow them to function like a new SAN as we migrate off your current blades. You can move the workloads on there or pick up another node as needed, whatever you’d like to do.
If you wanted to, you could buy a simple SAN with a CPU and continue to use your current blades to do the workload. But at some point down the road you’ll have to get a new SAN and will be forced to do a SAN migration, which will result in a temporary outage and other inconveniences. With Hyperflex, you just add a node and you’ve instantly have more storage. Any old nodes that you don’t need any more can be taken away from the cluster, and the Hyperflex software will move everything around without any problem.
**If you have multiple Hyperflex clusters, can data be replicated between them?**
You could create a hot site and use Site Recovery Manager, which is part of the VMware suite of tools. Hyperflex is just the guts underneath. Therefore, you could do something like SAN to SAN copy, but generally if you have VMware and you want to develop a hot site, I’d recommend Site Recovery Manager.
The challenge is that if you don’t have or want a hot site, then you’ll have to take the data and store it somewhere like a data domain or compress it with Veeam before you can send it to a backup site, cloud or anywhere else. So it all depends on how important that data is. If you’re looking for a real-time, five-minute difference kind of RTO/RPO for your DR site, that’s where a hot site is essential. If a 4-hour to 24-hours RTO/RPO is fine, then maybe our cloud would be an option for you. You can send it off there, and if you do have a disaster, you can call us. This way you can save the cost of buying a second set of hardware hoping you’ll never have to use it.