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Maine state government modernizes with Oracle Analytics

Maine’s analytics capabilities were stuck in the last century until just months ago, but by adopting Oracle Analytics the state government has transformed its business intelligence capabilities.

The database the Maine state government used up through part of 2019 was built in 1995, said Jeffrey Jordan, director of enterprise data services for the State of Maine, during the Oracle Analytics Summit, the vendor’s virtual user conference.

The state’s data was deeply siloed, and while users in a given department might know where to find that department’s data, if they wanted data from another department they didn’t know how to access it.

“That created a level of complexity for the end users in state government that was unmanageable,” Jordan said during a session recorded on Tuesday. “You were left with an environment where the average data consumer in state government only knew how to get what their predecessor knew how to get. They may have been trained to run a certain report, but they didn’t know how to get any other information.”

Meanwhile, anyone who needed to build a report or dashboard had to go through the state’s IT department to get it, and that took time. Users needed to submit a ticket, which then went into a queue, and the IT department would get to it when its turn came up.

Jeffrey Jordan, the state of Maine's director of enterprise data services, gives a virtual presentation during the Oracle Analytics Summit.
Jeffrey Jordan, the State of Maine’s director of enterprise data services, outlines Maine’s plan for designing a new analytics stack.

Maine’s path to Oracle Analytics began by making a case for change to the leaders of the state government. Jordan and his team of database analysts and IT professionals wanted to make the state government’s BI capabilities not only faster but also accessible by more than only the members of the IT department.

That meant first migrating the state’s data to the cloud, and then completely revamping the analytics process.

“A quote by one of the people I interviewed [about the need to modernize Maine’s BI technology] has stuck with me forever,” Jordan said. “They said, ‘When a customer asks me a question, they’ve lost interest by the time I can provide an answer.’ That was a matter of function, and the availability of the data that was needed.”

Once given approval, Maine’s analytics modernization began in 2018 by remodeling its data sets and moving them into an Oracle Analytics Cloud data warehouse, a process that lasted through the end of 2019. Meanwhile, Jordan and his team determined they wanted to build a three-tiered service model using Oracle Analytics.

First, the team designed a data analytics workbench to enable data analysts to easily develop the reports needed to operate the state government and do so with the modern visualization tools they were previously lacking. Next, they built an information portal including natural language processing capabilities to make dashboards and queries immediately available to members of the state government outside Jordan’s team, the business users.

We wanted to make it quick and easy to get to the data you needed to do your job.
Jeffrey JordanDirector of enterprise data services, State of Maine

Finally, a data science lab where machine learning can be applied to data and forecasting models can be developed, is still under construction.

In addition, leaders in state government wanted a single point of entry to the data, eliminating siloed data and that inability to access data in other departments. In response, Jordan’s team built an information portal using Oracle Analytics where end users can find what they’re looking for using simple drop-down menus.

“We wanted to make it quick and easy to get to the data you needed to do your job,” Jordan said.

Beyond simplifying — and speeding up — the analytics process to make it accessible to more users, Jordan added that implementation of Oracle Analytics and the transformation of the Maine state government’s BI stack has improved partnership between IT and end users.

“Answers are delivered faster, and there’s a reduced reliance on IT,” Jordan said. “It doesn’t go to zero, but it’s reducing the reliance so that you, as a data consumer and data producer, work with your data without having to wait in the queue.”

By May 2020, the state’s reliance on the legacy system was nearly eliminated and the old system is now used only to make sure reporting is consistent through the end of the year.

“What we’re seeing is a high value to end users,” Jordan said. “They’re turning what used to be one-off processes that they had to do manually into something the system does for them. They set it and forget it, and just get the information into their hands on a regular basis, and they’re seeing a lot of efficiency gain.”

Despite the success of Maine’s data transformation, the transition from its legacy stack to Oracle Analytics hasn’t been completely without glitches. Those problems, however, have more to do with education and training than anything else, Jordan said. As a result, more training is being planned.

In addition, Jordan said that he regrets not using Oracle Analytics until after the data was remodeled. The platform, he said, could have been used to do ad hoc analysis had training been done earlier, and by doing one step and then the other it delayed the starting point when the state government began getting value out of Oracle Analytics.

Meanwhile, as Jordan and his team continue developing the state of Maine’s analytical capabilities, they plan to move the state’s data from Oracle’s database as a service to Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse and integrate the state’s human resources data into the warehouse.

“We’re really excited to have replaced the old,” he said. “Now, we maximize the value we’re getting out of this new platform.”

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For Sale – Dell XPS 15 7590 4K OLED I7 9th Gen Laptop.

Dell XPS 15″ 4K OLED Laptop in absolutely excellent condition.

Originally purchased in Dec 2019, warranty until December 2020 which can be transferred to the buyer.

Comes with 130 W AC adapter which still has the protective plastic on it.

Windows has been reset and updated.

The OLED screen is awesome especially for photo editing.

No original box but will be very well packaged for delivery which will be by RMSD.

9th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-9750H, 12 MB Cache, 6 Core, up to 4.50 GHz
Windows 10 Pro 64bit, English, Dutch, French, German, Italian
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5
15.6-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED Anti-Reflective InfinityEdge Non-Touch Display
16 GB, 2 x 8 GB, DDR4, 2666 MHz
512 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid-State Drive
Killer™ Wi-Fi 6 AX1650, 2 x 2, Bluetooth 5.0
XPS 15 7590
2x USB 3
1x USB C
HDMI Port (full Size)
SD Card Slot
Headphone Socket
Battery Indicator Lights
Carbon Fibre wrist rest.

This was just over £1,600 when new, I am asking a firm £1,075 delivered by RMSD.

Not yet advertised elsewhere but tagged as being so as it will be shortly.

20200701_214416.jpg 20200701_214520.jpg 20200701_214545.jpg 20200701_212306.jpg 20200701_212328.jpg 20200701_213122.jpg 20200701_214403.jpg

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For Sale – Dell XPS 8500 – Base Unit & Keyboard

Hi All,

I have for sale my Dell XPS 8500. Until February this was my main PC and I used it for gaming, it ran PUBG etc quite easily. Since February I have bought another rig and sold the graphics card that was in this machine – so you would need a new graphics card if you wanted it for gaming. I was going to use it as a render rig, but have decided to sell it instead. It’s a great machine and the only reason I’m selling it is to upgrade to something more modern and part of the case has changed colour in the sun.

Specification is as follows – few upgrades to standard:

Dell XPS 8500
i7-3770 CPU @ 3.4GHz (not overclocked, never have)
12GB RAM (think it’s 2 x 4GB and 2 x 2GB but can check for anyone interested)
Upgraded PSU – CX500 Corsair
256GB SSD (ADATA) – 223GB usable – I have only used this drive for installing Windows 10 – it came out of the new PC.
Windows 7 serial key for Home Premium – currently it has installed a Windows 10 trial, I do not have discs for Windows 7.
Wifi Chipset

Base unit, power supply and keyboard only.

I’m looking for £200 for this, but open to offers – delivery is included in the price.

Can add more images if needed, any questions just ask.

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For Sale – Dell XPS 15 7590 4K OLED I7 9th Gen Laptop.

Dell XPS 15″ 4K OLED Laptop in absolutely excellent condition.

Originally purchased in Dec 2019, warranty until December 2020 which can be transferred to the buyer.

Comes with 130 W AC adapter which still has the protective plastic on it.

Windows has been reset and updated.

The OLED screen is awesome especially for photo editing.

No original box but will be very well packaged for delivery which will be by RMSD.

9th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-9750H, 12 MB Cache, 6 Core, up to 4.50 GHz
Windows 10 Pro 64bit, English, Dutch, French, German, Italian
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5
15.6-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED Anti-Reflective InfinityEdge Non-Touch Display
16 GB, 2 x 8 GB, DDR4, 2666 MHz
512 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid-State Drive
Killer™ Wi-Fi 6 AX1650, 2 x 2, Bluetooth 5.0
XPS 15 7590
2x USB 3
1x USB C
HDMI Port (full Size)
SD Card Slot
Headphone Socket
Battery Indicator Lights
Carbon Fibre wrist rest.

This was just over £1,600 when new, I am asking a firm £1,075 delivered by RMSD.

Not yet advertised elsewhere but tagged as being so as it will be shortly.

20200701_214416.jpg 20200701_214520.jpg 20200701_214545.jpg 20200701_212306.jpg 20200701_212328.jpg 20200701_213122.jpg 20200701_214403.jpg

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Cloud-based ERP rollout benefits from remote work

Vertical Aerospace Ltd.’s cloud-based ERP implementation was well underway until the pandemic arrived. The deployment teams met in person from time to time. In January, they gathered for an initial kickoff workshop.

The ERP implementation at Vertical’s Bristol, U.K., headquarters was moving along on schedule. And then the U.K. ordered its pandemic lockdown in March. At this point, Vertical was running real-world scenario testing of the cloud-based ERP system by Rootstock Software, which runs on the Salesforce cloud platform.

The implementation became a remote project out of necessity. But the company, which is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has been able to stay on schedule, and the onset of remote work brought a critical benefit.

“We were more focused because we had to be,” said Steven Baxter, head of programs at Vertical Aerospace. Baxter oversees the ERP project.

On time, on schedule

“One of the stipulations by Rootstock was ‘We need your time to have an effective implementation,”’ Baxter said.  “And they definitely got our time by working remotely under lockdown conditions.”

Steven BaxterSteven Baxter

The remote work resulted in a loss of “personable interactions,” the types of normal exchanges that happen in an office, Baxter said. Working remotely “has also given a lot of people a lot more time to focus because there are less distractions,” he said. That’s true for him, at least. The focus kept the project moving along on schedule.

Vertical, founded in 2016, has 130 employees. It is working on its third electric aircraft prototype, which will hold four passengers and a pilot, have a 100-mile range of travel and a top speed of 150 miles per hour. The previous two prototypes did not hold passengers.

The eVTOL aircraft perform a vertical takeoff, move into wing-born flight and then transition back to a vertical landing. Baxter said the company plans to build the latest model by the end of the year and have it certified for passengers by 2024.

Vertical Aerospace Ltd. electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL)
Vertical Aerospace Ltd. electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, prototype, Seraph, developed in 2019, can carry more than 550 pounds.

Prior to selecting Rootstock Software, Vertical was using a separate financial system as well as a combination of spreadsheets cobbled together with other tools as its ERP. The rudimentary architecture created a disconnect between the financial and purchasing systems. 

As part of its ERP selection process, Baxter said he and his team developed a list of requirements, such as being able to trace the serial numbers of all the parts throughout their lifecycle. They also wanted a fully integrated ERP system that would allow them to grow as a company.

They set a go-live deadline for early April and met it.

A benefit of remote work

The idea that remote work can improve productivity is a finding backed by a new survey conducted by Upwork Inc., a platform that connects professional freelancers with businesses.

Using a third-party service, Upwork polled 1,500 hiring managers, including executives. It found that 32% of hiring managers reported productivity increases compared to 22.5% who found that productivity decreased.

In the report, Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist, argued that remote work may lead to productivity gains in the broad economy. This productivity gain doesn’t require that all the jobs be remote, he said. 

I think people are seeing the benefits more of actually having that time away from the office to focus.
Steven BaxterHead of programs, Vertical Aerospace

“All else equal, over time, jobs that are more productive if done remote will go remote, and those that are less productive will not,” Ozimek stated in the report. “The net effect of this selection process will be greater productivity.”

Vertical already had a flexible work policy, but Baxter believes the ERP implementation points to “a more balanced approach” in how work gets done — where people are no longer fully in the office or fully working from home. 

“I think people are seeing the benefits more of actually having that time away from the office to focus,” Baxter said. 

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Getting a handle on certificate management in Windows shops

Certificate management is one thing that IT pros often forget until an application fails or resources are unavailable because a certificate was not renewed before its expiration date.

Certificates are typically used to identify a webpage as a known site to create an encrypted HTTPS session. Most static webpages don’t use them. With known secure pages, the certificate handling is often done behind the scenes.

Certificates also manage authentication and communication between systems across an organization’s network; a lapsed certificate in your data center can have serious consequences, such as preventing users from logging into Microsoft Exchange to access email and calendars.

As an administrator, the process to check certificates in Windows is easily done by running certmgr.msc at the command prompt to open the Certificates Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in tool.

On the surface, it doesn’t look too difficult to manage certificates, but problems with them have caused some of the largest applications in the world to go offline.

Certificates MMC snap-in tool
The Certificates MMC snap-in tool displays the installed certificates on the current Windows machine.

The most common use of certificates is to establish a secure communication tunnel with a website so both your login information and what you do is hidden from the rest of the internet. For example, when you load LinkedIn, the site uses a certificate to encrypt communication using Secure Sockets Layer between your machine the site.

As you start to look at the websites you visit, you are likely to find many that use login information have certificates to protect your privacy. These certificates are not permanent and they do expire. When I checked, the LinkedIn certificate is due to expire in September. An expired certificate will cause problems. Once you cannot establish a secure connection, a website can simply go dark until the certificate is renewed.

LinkedIn certificate
Like many sites on the internet, LinkedIn uses a certificate to secure the traffic between the site and its users.

While losing LinkedIn might not be drastic, what if it was the certificate to a cloud-based application you use? Or worse yet, what if it was your company’s application and now your customers can’t access their data? An expiring certificate is simple to overlook and problems with certificate management happen to even the largest of companies, including Microsoft. It costs next to nothing to renew these certificates, but once they pass their expiration date, the resulting chaos can cost money and cause embarrassment for the IT staff.

Certificates often remain out of sight, out of mind

One of the main challenges with certificates is they remain hidden in plain sight. They are not complex to deal with and often last several years.

Your IT admins are used to the hustle and critical need of many IT services that remain front of mind. Because certificates last for a long time — often, several years — their importance fades into the background; they fall off the daily list of tasks that must be completed.

It’s easy enough to check the status of your certificates in Windows, but there is no mechanism to alert you about an imminent expiration. For some sites, it’s possible to click past the warning you might see when a certificate has expired; we train our users to avoid these types of potential security risks, so why is it an option to proceed? This practice doesn’t work for other key functions, such as single sign-on; other more automated functions will simply stop working when the certificate expires.

Certificate management issues happen for several reasons

Renewal of certificates is not hard and can be done by even the most junior person on your team, except for one critical piece: You need a company credit card to charge the renewal to, and those are typically not given to junior admins. The stigma of needing to ask permission to use a corporate credit card or wanting to avoid the hassle of getting reimbursed can prevent IT staff from proceeding.

Oftentimes, this certificate task falls outside the realm of IT and into the accounting department. This also means they are the ones who would get the renewal notices, and they may not understand how critical they are until it’s too late.

If both the communication related to and the payment of the certificates is outside of the main IT department, then it’s up to IT to be proactive and stay on top of certificate management. You should not rely on an email or a spreadsheet to track these expiration dates. A group calendar appointment, even years out, still helps, even when turnover occurs. There are also several vendors that offer certificate management add-ons to popular monitoring tools, such as SolarWinds and Quest Software.

While you don’t want to reinvent or deploy large-scale solutions to address certificate management, it’s not something to ignore. They can be at the root of many wide-ranging issues. An expiring certificate is not usually on any type of disaster recovery or backup plan because they are so unique. Look to incorporate certificate monitoring into existing tool sets so your staff has ample time to get them renewed and deployed before your secure connections go offline along with your customers and reputation.

Checking a certificate isn’t hard and the renewal process isn’t difficult, but remembering to stay on top of certificate management continues to evade many IT shops. Another complication is the number of certificates to keep track of. You might have multiple sites, each with its own certificate that are all required to make one application work. It can be very easy to lose track of one, which can then cause a cascade of events that lead to application failure. While co-terming certificates to line up the expiration dates would make the most sense, sometimes that is not possible in every environment.

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Learn to manage Office 365 ProPlus updates

A move to the cloud can be confusing until you get your bearings, and learning how to manage Office 365 ProPlus updates will take some time to make sure they’re done right.

Office 365 is a bit of a confusing name. It is actually a whole suite of programs based on a subscription model, mostly cloud based. However, Office 365 ProPlus is a suite inside a suite: a subset collection of software contained in most Office 365 subscriptions. This package is the client install that contains the programs everyone knows: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and so on.

Editor’s note: Microsoft recently announced it would rename Office 365 ProPlus to Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise, effective on April 21.

For the sake of comparison, Office 2019, Office 2016 and older versions are the on-premises managed suite with the same products, but with a much slower rollout pace for updates and fixes. Updates for new features are also slower and may not even appear until the next major version, which might not be until 2022 based on Microsoft’s release cadence.

Rolling the suite out hasn’t changed too much for many years. You can push out Office 365 ProPlus updates the same way you do other Windows updates, namely Windows Server Update Service (WSUS) and Configuration Manager. Microsoft gave the latter a recent branding adjustment and is now referring to it as Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager.

The Office 365 ProPlus client needs a different approach, because updates are not delivered or designed in the same way as the traditional Office products. You can still use Configuration Manager, but the setup is different.

Selecting the update channel for end users

Microsoft gives you the option to determine when your users will get new feature updates. There are five update channels: Insider Fast, Monthly Channel, Monthly Channel (Targeted), Semi-Annual Channel and Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted). Insider Fast gets updates first, Monthly Channel updates arrive on a monthly basis and Semi-Annual updates come every six months. Users in the Targeted channels get these updates first so they can report back to IT with any issues or other feedback.

You can configure the channel as part of an Office 365 ProPlus deployment with the Office Deployment Toolkit (ODT), but this only works at the time of install. There are two ways to configure the channel after deployment: Group Policy and Configuration Manager.

Using Group Policy for Office 365 ProPlus updates

Using Group Policy, you can set which channel a computer gets by enabling the Update Channel policy setting under Computer ConfigurationPoliciesAdministrative TemplatesMicrosoft Office 2016 (Machine)Updates. This is a registry setting located at HKLMSoftwarePoliciesMicrosoftoffice16.0commonofficeupdateupdatebranch. The options for this value are: Current, FirstReleaseCurrent, InsiderFast, Deferred, FirstReleaseDeferred.

Update Channel policy setting
Managing Office 365 ProPlus updates from Group Policy requires the administrator to select the Enabled option in the Update Channel policy setting.

A scheduled task, which is deployed as part of the Office 365 ProPlus install called Office Automatic Update 2.0, reads that setting and applies the updates.

You can use standard Group Policy techniques to target policies to specific computers or apply the registry settings.

Using Configuration Manager for Office 365 ProPlus updates

You can use Configuration Manager, utilizing ODT or Group Policy, to define which channel a client is in, but it also works as a software update point rather than using WSUS or downloading straight from Microsoft’s servers. With this method, you will need to ensure the Office 365 ProPlus channel builds across all the different deployed channels are available from the software update point in Configuration Manager.

Office 365 ProPlus updates work the same way as other Windows updates: Microsoft releases the update, a local WSUS server downloads them, Configuration Manager synchronizes with the WSUS server to copy the updates, and then Configuration Manager distributes the updates to the distribution points. You need to enable the Office 365 Client product on WSUS for this approach to work.

WSUS server settings
Set up Configuration Manager to handle Office 365 ProPlus updates by selecting the Office 365 Client product on the WSUS server.

It’s also possible to configure clients just to get the updates straight from Microsoft if you don’t want or need control over them.

Caveats for Office 365 ProPlus updates

When checking a client’s channel, the Office 365 ProPlus client will only show the channel it was in during its last update. Only when the client gets a new update will it show which channel it obtained the new update from, so the registry setting is a better way to check the current configuration.

When an Office 365 ProPlus client detects an update, it will download a compressed delta update. However, if you change the client to a channel that is on an older version of Office 365 ProPlus, the update will be much larger but still smaller than the standard Office 365 ProPlus install. Also, if you change the channel multiple times, it can take up to 24 hours for a second version change to be recognized and applied.

As always with any new product: research, test and build your understanding of these mechanisms before you roll out Office 365 ProPlus. If an update breaks something your business needs, you need know how to fix that situation across your fleet quickly.

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Customer experience world catches up on CCPA regulations

The California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect Jan. 1 but will not be enforced until July 1. Those in the customer experience realms of sales, marketing, e-commerce and customer service who’ve already created GDPR compliance plans are a good chunk of the way to CCPA compliance, experts say.

CX teams who work for companies outside California may view CCPA compliance as a lower priority than GDPR, because it only represents one U.S. state. That is the case for a majority of clients of Blue Fountain Media, a New York-based digital agency specializing in marketing, e-commerce and overall customer experience, said general manager Brian Byer.

“This particular law isn’t going to be what drives the behavior across the entire United States,” Byer said. “Being a New Yorker, California is looked upon as being a little quirky, and once this becomes a federal mandate you will see a massive consumer effect. As of today, until somebody gets a massive fine, it’s going to be something consumers aren’t as cognizant of as, say, HIPAA compliance if they’re going to the doctor every week.”

Nationally, consumer data protection proposals are under consideration in Washington and Oregon as well, prompting some companies such as Microsoft to make CCPA compliance its national standard as it prepares for users to scrutinize cloud companies’ data-privacy practices as a patchwork of state laws may eventually lead to a national umbrella regulation.

CCPA regulations chart
CCPA regulations touch numerous teams involved with customer experience.

Differences, similarities to GDPR

For CX teams, protecting customer privacy under CCPA is similar to the European GDPR law, which took effect in 2018, in that a core principle involves consumers’ “right to be forgotten,” or requiring a company to delete their personal data.

The differences between the two laws are borne of the different mindsets of the European and California legal systems, said IDC legal analyst Ryan O’Leary. CCPA makes an exception for customer loyalty programs, which are not covered under the law, while the GDPR doesn’t. CCPA also puts more responsibility on consumers to opt out of their data use for commercial purposes, rather than the company that holds the data.

Another difference with CCPA is that it gives consumers separate control over sale of their consumer data, the extent of which will remain somewhat “up in the air” until regulators decide what will and won’t be enforced, O’Leary added. But California consumers, in effect, can tell a company to hold on to their data, but not to sell it.

If you’re not selling the data, but third parties you’re working with are leveraging your consumer data and going ahead and selling it, you could be held liable.
Ryan O’LearyAnalyst, IDC

“Businesses have to provide a clearly visible and worded opt-out link on their websites [for data sales],” O’Leary said, adding that cloud software platforms add more legal questions about who is responsible for data-selling violations — which can add up quickly, with fines of $7,500 per violation — for selling a consumer’s data after consumers have opted out. “If you’re not selling the data, but third parties you’re working with are leveraging your consumer data and going ahead and selling it, you could be held liable.”

That said, O’Leary added that he sees companies trying to limit the number of opt-outs — and therefore, the compliance load — by making it harder to do. Those can include benign “are you sure?” boxes, more onerous web forms, or even requiring consumers to call a contact center to opt out over the phone. It’s all legal, fitting in with CCPA’s mandate requiring companies to offer consumers two modes of contact for consumers to opt out of personal data retention.

What companies CCPA covers

Despite the fear of potential CCPA fines that could intimidate digital marketing and call center teams for mishandling consumer information, not every company is affected by the regulation. First, a company has to do business with Californians. Second, the law covers only companies that either do $25 million in gross revenue, receive personal information from at least 50,000 consumer or derive at least 50% of annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information.

Some nonprofits may be excluded, according to Jackson Lewis attorneys Joseph Lazzarotti and Jason Gavejian in their analysis of the law, which also includes which data points that the law considers personal information, such as biometric data, education records and even “audio, electronic, visual, thermal, olfactory or similar information.”

For CX teams using cloud platform technology platforms, complying with CCPA and other potential consumer data-protection laws coming down the pike involves unifying consumer data and breaking down data silos — something they’re been working on already for business purposes, said IDC’s O’Leary.

“The first step in complying with these types of laws is to clean up your house and information governance practices,” O’Leary said. “We really need to stop thinking and working in silos. We need to start data mapping. There’s plenty of tools and consultants out there to help. … It will cost, but [consumer trust] is worth any cost to get a handle on your data, where it is and who has it.”

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Guarding the shop: Rewind backup protects e-commerce data

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for e-commerce … that is, until your site goes down and customers can’t shop anymore.

That’s where Rewind backup comes in.

Rewind provides backup for e-commerce sites hosted on Shopify and BigCommerce.

“Most people don’t know they need a backup,” Rewind CEO Mike Potter said.

For example, an e-commerce business that uses Shopify and deletes a product or blog post is not covered just because it’s in the cloud. Similar to cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce, the provider protects its infrastructure, but not always your data.

However, in Office 365, for example, users have a place for deleted items that they can access if they delete an email by mistake. That’s not the case in a lot of e-commerce platforms where “there is no trash bin,” Potter said.

Potter, who is also a founder of Ottawa-based Rewind, said he’s lost data before, so he understands the pain. Launched four years ago, Rewind had one customer lose everything right before Christmas but restored the store to a safe point in time from before the incident.

As a way to bring the backup issue to the forefront, this holiday season Rewind is offering a free version of its data protection software. Rewind: One-Time enables retailers to conduct a free one-time backup of up to 10,000 products and related data in their online stores. The Rewind backup offer is available for BigCommerce and Shopify merchants.

After an incident, Rewind: One-Time users can restore their data to the time they installed the product.

There needs to be a way for everyone to have protection in this holiday season.
Mike PotterCEO, Rewind

The one-time backup for BigCommerce includes product, brand, category, option set and option data, while the Shopify backup includes products, product images, custom collections and smart collections. The backups are stored indefinitely in the Rewind Vault, which is hosted in various Amazon regions. Data is encrypted in transit and at rest.

It’s the first time Rewind has offered this one-time backup.

“There needs to be a way for everyone to have protection in this holiday season,” Potter said.

A jump forward with Rewind backup

For Crossrope, an online jump rope seller and workout provider based in Raleigh, N.C., “it’s the biggest season of the year,” said digital marketing specialist Andy Lam.

“To have Rewind as a tool for backing up, it just gives us peace of mind,” Lam said.

Before adopting Rewind, one afternoon at the end of a workday, Crossrope made a change to its theme code that broke the site. Customers couldn’t add items to their carts and the company lost out on orders and revenue in the process.

The company had a manual backup saved from 30 days prior and spent a lot of time trying to restore the site manually.

“That kickstarted trying to find a better solution,” Lam said.

Crossrope heard from BigCommerce, its e-commerce platform of choice, about Rewind backup. It was the first backup company that Crossrope contacted.

“Because they were a full-fledged cloud backup tool, it was a no-brainer,” Lam said.

Now if there are any incorrect changes like the previous incident, Crossrope can “rewind” to a known good point in time, in just a couple of clicks. The company has been using Rewind backup for about four months and hasn’t had a major incident. Rewind performs daily backups for Crossrope, which Lam said is enough.

Screenshot of Rewind backup
Rewind backup enables merchants to restore their stores to a safe point in time.

“Now we feel safe,” Lam said. “I know they’re covering a lot of bases for us.”

While Rewind can restore the code in a couple of clicks, Lam said he is hoping the backup vendor can speed up product restoration.

A Rewind recap

Though e-commerce data loss can result from malicious acts and third-party integrations, human error is a common cause.

“We’ve seen everything,” Potter said. (Think of a cat jumping on a keyboard.) “You don’t get any warnings you’re going to have a disaster.”

Rewind claims more than 10,000 small and medium-sized enterprises as customers.

If they want backups more recent than the one-time protection, Rewind: One-Time users can upgrade to one of the paid options during the holiday season or beyond. Pricing ranges from $9 to $299 per month, depending on the size of the store and the number of orders. Many customers perform a daily Rewind backup, Potter said.

The Rewind: One-Time offer is available through Dec. 31, 2019. Customers who use it will have access to that backup indefinitely.

Rewind also provides backup for Mailchimp email marketing and QuickBooks Online accounting data.

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