As part of an ongoing Table of Experts discussion series, Pacific Business News brought together two experts for a dialogue about technology for business.
Richard Zheng, President of Servpac; and Marie Hibler, Regional Manager of NaviSite, an Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class company, came together on April 27 to discuss the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud service providers, cybersecurity, and how to keep informed and stay ahead in the ever-changing world of business technology.
The discussion was moderated by Steve Auerbach, of the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training.
AUERBACH: Our economy is rapidly shifting as both educators and business leaders are increasingly becoming aware that computer science is a new basic skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility. When you think about the Internet of Things, or IoT, the volumes of data generated with IoT connected devices are growing dramatically. By some estimates, connected devices will generate 507 zettabytes by 2019. So based on all that growth and data, what does this mean for enterprises and small-to-medium businesses in Hawaii?
HIBLER: I think that’s one of the biggest drivers out there right now for cloud. When I look at some of the other research in the industry, the top concern for CIOs is business intelligence and analytics; what to do with these large volumes of data that they are generating and collecting and storing. Now you have remote workers, seasonal workers, contractors, digital marketing, social media managers, and all of these factors are driving the huge volumes of data and now changing the way that businesses operate. According to Gartner, these are some of the top priorities for CIOs in 2016 and I think that’s where you can start the discussion with cloud because cloud is agile, scalable, and it’s flexible. Cloud can offer benefits beyond what you can do with traditional hardware in the data centers. Perhaps you can do it technically, but not as efficiently.
AUERBACH: How do you select a service provider when it comes to cloud technology and making sure that the operation is successful?
HIBLER: No cloud service or solution provider is alike and I think Richard and I both agree on that. I look at cloud initially when you see companies that have a traditional data center – meaning they have their hardware on-premise; they manage the hardware, the patching, and the upgrades. I look at an entry into cloud like an elastic extension of that environment. Cloud as a journey; it’s not a product, but a business platform.
So it’s a way of transforming the way to do business today by giving you actually more control. Even though you don’t have that hardware onsite, and you can’t necessarily give your server a hug, you’ll actually have more control over your technology, your operations, and your services in a cloud environment.
ZHENG: Hawaii has thousands of small and medium-sized businesses. Traditionally these businesses have their own servers, computers, and some kind of small cloud software in the office. Keeping those services operational and secure can be quite a burden. Technology is changing so fast these days that many of these businesses are simply unable to keep up. With Cloud technology, these companies can basically offload the work and have a reliable Third Party manage their data processing infrastructure. At the end of the day, the business owner wants to be able to click a button, open a file, and do his work without worrying about whether the server is secure. That’s where a Cloud provider fits into the picture.
AUERBACH: Richard, you mentioned some security issues; let’s talk about cybersecurity. As you both know, it’s probably one of the most strategic threats for federal, state, and private sectors nationwide. And here in Hawaii, given our presence within Pacific there are a lot of operation-critical systems across different organizations. Can you talk a little about what you see are some of the threats that are in front of us in these virtual and desktop environments? And what companies can do to be vigilant in mitigating some of these threats?
HIBLER: Last month, I worked with one of my local teams to host a cybersecurity summit. And we invited customers in, C-level and VP-level executives, to explore some of the current trends. We had companies like PriceWaterhouseCoopers and even a delegate from the United States Secret Service to actually simulate a live security breach in action. It was projected up on a big screen and the audience got to see how somebody actually penetrates a system and, once they’re in there, how they start searching for areas to either garner information or cause havoc in the environment. They say that a cost to a business when a network goes down due to hacking or some type of cybercrime incident, is over $140,000 dollars and 75 percent of organizations have detected some kind of a security incident. Not necessarily a full breach or hack, but still an incident. You want customers to have more accessibility to you as a company through a website or different portals and not just email and telephone, but with that access comes an inherent risk because they’re coming from different platforms. The cyber criminals themselves are really not all that intelligent; there are only seven different primary hacking design patterns out there that they mostly use. But what they are is tenacious. So a hacker takes one particular breach that’s been successful and they keep working that pattern and refining it. More often, that’s the biggest challenge and the biggest thing that keeps CIOs up at night: what are you going to do if it happens? Everybody has security, business continuity, and a disaster recovery strategy—but what is your plan B if you do become a victim? That’s where the conversation is now opening up to many third party companies who can come in to give you an actual assessment. We’ve seen some of the biggest names in manufacturing, healthcare, the IT industry, and even the government becomes a victim. The reason why I think government is such a big and attractive target to cyber criminals is the sheer amount of data that they collect on a person; it’s a real treasure trove. The White House, a few months ago, encouraged companies to start sharing their information, and not keep it in an independent silo. Share your best practices, share your challenges and share your failures to help each other out because cyber criminals are everywhere. They come from across the world, from the teenage kid proving his IT prowess to a nefarious criminal bent on perhaps damaging your brand name, being a political activist, or doing it for ransom or financial gain.
AUERBACH: That’s great information, Marie. You talk about the White House cybersecurity; $19 billion dollars is being put into different capacity-building and awareness programs, and defending our network. Richard, what are some things locally that customers can do to defend their assets, brand names, customer data and so forth, from cyber criminals?
ZHENG: Cybersecurity has become a bigger issue than most people realize. There are several particular challenges for small to medium-sized businesses here. Most people still use a firewall router they bought at the store for a few hundred dollars, which is really only built for yesterday’s threats. In the past, a hacker would try to break in to get your information. These days, they’re more likely to send you an email enticing you to download ransomware or spam that will breach your system. Again and again, organizations of all kinds are being forced to pay hackers to regain control of their own data. Earlier, we spoke about the Internet of Things. For example, in our building, we have a solar panel on the rooftop which is connected to the Cloud. Imagine someone breaking into the Cloud system and shutting down the power completely? Small business owners need to deploy today’s security solutions such as content filtering, ransomware blocking, and other new tools available in the marketplace.
AUERBACH: True. The CEO of Symantec, Michael Brown, recently stated that the demand for the cybersecurity workforce is expected to rise to 6 million employees globally, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million employees who are working to help defend our networks and environments. One of the things that the University of Hawaii system is doing is in partnership with NSA Hawaii and Commander Captain Cliff Bean; UH has secured a grant through NSF and NSA to drive more capacity building and awareness to cybersecurity for our K through 12 audiences. We’re working with the DOE and private schools across the state to host a GenCyber Camp during the week of June 6 here in Hawaii, the goal being to engage students and educators early to give them an understanding of safe online behavior, increase the interest in cybersecurity careers, and improve teaching methods for cybersecurity content in K through 12 computer science curriculums. It’s a great opportunity for our educators and students and more information is available at https://gencyber-hi.org. As we speak about cybersecurity, what do you think are some of the things we can do to help drive more workforce development when it comes to cloud and IT professionals here in our state?
ZHENG: Any IT company in Hawaii will tell you that finding a capable workforce is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. You always hear that a large number of UH graduates are moving to the mainland. I guess it’s a chicken and the egg thing: With a limited number of technology companies in Hawaii, grads have fewer options to stay. But without access to skilled employees, local tech companies have a harder time starting and growing. Of course, the situation is improving. Hawaii’s startup community and tech incubators are getting bigger. In addition, companies like ours are really expanding. Eight years ago, we had two employees. Today we have more than twenty.
HIBLER: If you look at Microsoft, they give significant discounts, sometimes even 100 percent off to schools for their product. Apple donates their hardware to some schools. As younger people learn to work with these machines more as a productivity tool and they grow more and more accustomed to them, it’s so much easier to then take the next step to get additional credentials and to learn more. It’s like falling down into a rabbit hole with this technology; it’s so fluid and it’s so dynamic that you can’t just get your certification and that’s it, you’re done. Here on the mainland, we have a plethora of engineers but within the groups that I work with, I am seeing people becoming specialists. They’ll become a specialist specific to O365 productivity tools, or specific to security, which does have some very unique applications and attributes. I think the burden is also on the manufacturers, on the companies that develop this technology, to help start with the education at a younger level and not expect somebody to just go into college and say they’re going to get this degree in IT.
AUERBACH: Right. And as technology continues to evolve, it’s not what you know, it’s how fast you can learn that matters. Marie, you talked a bit about that. Richard, how would you suggest businesses address the issue of keeping ahead of technology shifts and/or knowledge decay?
ZHENG: A business like ours has to keep up with rapidly changing technologies. Our customers demand it, so continuous education is a big thing for us. Since some information may reach the mainland before it reaches Hawaii, we send our staff to conferences and reach out to consultants when needed. We encourage our customers to keep an open mind, see what’s available, and implement new technologies that will enhance their operations.
AUERBACH: That makes a lot of sense. In terms of current tech trends, let’s talk about the growing awareness around augmented reality and virtual reality. A quick definition: virtual reality is the ability to transpose the user or to bring them someplace else through closed visors or goggles which block out the room around us and put our presence elsewhere. Whereas augmented reality takes our current reality and adds something to it. It doesn’t move us elsewhere; it simply augments our current state of presence, often with clear visors. One of the things I wanted to find out more about is what you both may be seeing or hearing that your organization or others are doing in augmented reality and the virtual reality space?
HIBLER: Within the corporation that I work for, we’re constantly looking at new technologies or experimenting with smaller companies who may come to us to try out an opportunity. We take a hard look and think, is this a trend that we’re on the ground level of and can help to develop? Our CTO as well as our upper management keep an open mind, as well as an open door, to some of the new technologies, some of the companies that are at a developmental stage and rolling out new technology that might be of interest, as Richard said, to small or medium enterprises, because that’s where we also focus.
ZHENG: I think it’s still in the very early stages. FaceTime and video conferencing are types of primitive virtual reality that essentially bring a person into the room to communicate. But we can improve on the technology. For example, we have employees who used to work in our Hawaii office but have now transferred to the mainland. To keep those workers in the company, we built our own virtual reality, sort of an iPad on top of a segway. Unlike FaceTime, where you have to be at the camera and keep people engaged, you can control yourself with our technology. You log into the iPad and drive the virtual Segway around the office by adjusting the iPad higher or lower. This virtual “person” becomes an employee working in the office, able to roam around with instant communication. Unlike traditional video conferencing, this approach changes the mentality of the remote worker, enabling the person to really feel part of the company.
AUERBACH: That’s great. Some technologists suggest that over the next 18 to 22 months, we can expect to see augmented and virtual reality transition from science fiction to more practical realms of business and government. Dr. Jason Leigh at UH Manoa, an ICS professor, is launching a course this fall around augmented reality and virtual reality, and he’s the expert on data visualization; it’ll be an exciting course for students to gain exposure to AR and VR. Let’s move over to another trend: voice over IP. There are a lot of organizations using VoIP; what are some of the benefits? Is it reliable? How’s the voice quality and so forth?
ZHENG: VoIP is a type of cloud technology. Traditionally, businesses had an expensive PBX phone system in their offices that they operated themselves. With VoIP phone technology, you don’t need to own or operate a PBX, there’s a virtual one in the Cloud. You just buy the individual phones and have access to all the latest phone features like voicemail to email, calendar-based call forwarding, and many more. You can also take the phone anywhere you want. Lots of professionals like attorneys, CPA’s, and real estate brokers don’t want to work from the office. With VoIP, they just plug their phone into their home Internet connection and start calling just like they’re calling from the office. It’s very convenient.
VoIP has become a very mature technology over the last 10 to 15 years. Today, voice quality, reliability, and features are excellent as long as the user has a fast, reliable, private Internet connection.
AUERBACH: Let’s shift to another trend related to the cloud; when we talked about big data, some people talk about data sciences or data analytics, what’s one way we can help businesses take advantage of big data and analytics to help provide business intelligence and actionable insights to help them drive greater business outcomes?
HIBLER: That’s actually a topic I’m hearing more and more about from clients. They’re telling us about their data warehousing projects, how they’re trying to define and sort through the volumes of data that they’re collecting in order to utilize it in the business environment. It’s not enough to collect all this data on our customers; how do you then take that to the next level and actually apply it to your business to improve the customer experience, operations, and convert it to a profit center if possible? I think it’s still in the early stages for many companies, where they collect all of this data, but have to pay the storage fees. So it’s a matter of collecting it and organizing it, and I think that is something that’s still in the development stage. We’re not seeing any clear trends from our customers on data warehousing. They are still trying to define their business intelligence and what possible applications they would have for all of this information.
ZHENG: As Marie said, big data is in the early stages for a lot of small and medium-sized businesses. Sometimes they don’t know what to collect or have the tools to make sense of it. For example, we operate lots of networking nodes in our business. Every node can generate tons of information. Luckily there are online tools available that we can use to analyze the data. As these tools become more readily available, businesses can use their internal data to increase customer satisfaction and revenue.
AUERBACH: Great information. Going back to cloud providers, how does a company go about selecting one? What is the approach and what are some of the cloud providers out there?
HIBLER: Just as there is no single cloud definition out there, different providers have their own unique definitions and attributes. For someone like Amazon, I call that “cloud by credit card,” because you put your credit card down and you’re able to buy a cloud, a virtual machine, but then you have approximately 113 line items of additional features and benefits that you can add to that cloud for additional costs. I think that’s where companies such as Richard’s, or the company that I work for, NaviSite, which is part of Oceanic Time Warner, come in, we’re solution sellers. We don’t sell a product, but we come in and we help evaluate your current environment and understand what your objectives are, what your vision is for where you want to take this network in one, three, or five years. Is it the end-of-life for your hardware, or changing business needs; are you either growing, being acquired, or scaling back? That’s where I think if you sit and have that conversation with your customer, you can help them not only develop their strategy but build that cloud strategy to achieve what I call, real-time infrastructure. They manage their usernames and passwords and they use the cloud as their tool for managing the IT operations for the business.
ZHENG: At the beginning of the conversation, we talked about the challenges faced by small and medium-sized businesses in Hawaii. Their biggest challenge complicated technology that’s changing all the time. So we’ve created a one-stop, enterprise solution that includes VOIP phones, UltraFast Internet, and secure local Cloud services. Our single vendor solution relieves these companies of their Telecom headaches and allows them to focus on serving their customers.
AUERBACH: That makes a lot of sense; I think we’ve talked about some interesting topics today. Do you both have any closing statements or comments?
HIBLER: When it comes to Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class and NaviSite, I think we offer a very unique proposition to customers in Hawaii and are able to face some of their business challenges with them. If you’re using our services, your traffic would not touch the public internet, thereby increasing security and reducing latency, but it also gives you a true partner for all of your solutions rather than having to buy each element individually and having to manage everything. That’s one of the biggest benefits of working with our company.
ZHENG: Servpac is the largest independent telecom in Hawaii, serving small to medium-sized businesses since 2004. We specialize in the integration of phones, Internet, and Cloud into a seamless integrated platform enabling our customers to compete more effectively in the global marketplace.
Director, Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training and Continuing Education
Steve Auerbach is the Director of the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training and Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning (PCATT), at Honolulu Community College. PCATT is a consortium of the University of Hawai’i Community Colleges and is responsible for collaborating with industry to develop and provide training in advanced technology, which enhances educational and workforce development programs and initiatives in the State of Hawai’I and the Pacific Rim. Auerbach’s unit also oversees management and operations of continuing education and lifelong learning programs of the college working with other college divisions to develop non-credit activities that lead into credit pathways.
Auerbach is a member of Honolulu Community College’s executive team and is actively engaged in campus leadership initiatives. In collaboration with UH Information Technology Services, he successfully led NSA’s 2015 GenCyber Hawai’i camp, a Statewide Cybersecurity capacity building initiative. He has strong relationships with business, industry and government.
Auerbach previously served in a variety of senior executive positions for Hewlett Packard Corporation. During his 20 year career with HP he worked in Educational Services, Sales, Business Development, Marketing, Product Development and Global Business Unit Management. Most recently he was leading HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Groups’ Accessories and Internet Services Global business unit in San Diego, CA chartered with incubating, launching and commercializing innovative products and services.
Auerbach served as an entrepreneur in residence for CONNECT – Springboard San Diego – business creation, innovation and development program. He is also serving as a mentor for Everwise, a leader in workplace mentoring using an innovative platform leveraging data, technology and workforce science to dramatically improve workforce development.
Auerbach studied at the University of Oregon and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Hawai’i.
President, Servpac Inc.
Entrepreneur Richard Zheng is the President of Servpac Inc, the largest independent local telecom provider in Hawaii. After being educated in China and receiving extensive telecom training and experience in Canada, Richard moved to Hawaii in 2001. Three years later, he founded Servpac, one of the first companies to compete with Hawaii’s telecom establishment. Since that time, his company has grown from a two-person start-up to a multimillion-dollar enterprise deploying over ten thousand phones, powering a private Internet network in hundreds of office buildings, and delivering secure, local Cloud Computing services from the most advanced facility of its kind in the State. While other local telecom providers have filed for bankruptcy or been absorbed by others, Richard’s relentless innovation has enabled Servpac to thrive by lowering costs and increasing efficiency for over a thousand small and medium-sized businesses including Zippys, City Mill, and Roberts Hawaii.
Regional Manager, NaviSite, a Time Warner Cable Company
Regional Manager, Cloud/Hosting Enablement
Verizon / Terremark – Enterprise S.A.
Manager – Premier Accounts
Unisys – Enterprise Portfolio Manager
British Telecom – Channel Management Director for Americas region
IT/Cloud Enablement professional with comprehensive experience and expertise with data center technologies (DaaS, SaaS, and PaaS), solutions and services.
Currently evangelize NaviSite’s award-winning cloud computing portfolio for TWCBC (Oceanic) clients in the Pacific region.
Also responsible for growing the existing Channel Partner relationship and recruiting new agents/resellers for NaviSite.
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- Disaster Recovery & Security
- Hosted Applications
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- Office 365 Productivity Tools
- Infrastructure as a Service
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