cal net azure hackathon teams

Azure Hack-a-thon Inspires Cloud Innovation & Creativity

On April 7th, we hosted our first Azure Hack-a-thon, a competition meant to inspire our engineers to get creative in researching and designing cloud solutions that Cal Net can use in its official reference architecture.

Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing service that manages applications and data for businesses through a global network of secure, reliable data centers. Three teams were tasked with solving challenges for fictitious organizations using Azure. Who came out on top?

cal net azure hackathon teams

Team Nervous Systems: Honorable Mention

Eric Luke, Joe Pontius, Gary Stanton, and Kareem Ibrahim

Challenge:

  1. Increase information security
  2. Manage and lock down devices from a central location
  3. Encrypt emails and prevent data leakage
  4. Control where information is stored and how it’s share

Solution:

"With our security monitoring solution - Intune, Security & Compliance Center, encrypted email -  clients would be able to remove on-prem machines and cut down on expenses and administrative needs," explains Joe Pontius. "[The event] was very educational and challenging. I was forced to explore technologies within Azure for which I had no experience."

Joe's Advice:

"Try [the cloud] for a few months in a development environment," he says.

Team Everlasting Industries: Honorable Mention

Scott Irwin, Stephen Kerr, and Orlando Flores

Challenge:

  1. Reduce on-prem active and archive file server storage
  2. Require a resilient backup and disaster-recovery to minimize downtime
  3. Permit mobile workers to easily access file share content while on the road
  4. Displace need for Datto and rely on Azure technologies

Solution: 

"Our data backup and failover solution was a one hour or less RPO/RTO of all critical business services using Azure Files, Azure Backup, and Azure Site Recovery," says Stephen Kerr. "Presenting the solution with real working servers/products was a great way to show off all the hard work we put in. [Ultimately] I see most small business needing even less on-premise and far less cloud servers such as AWS and Azure. The reason for this is because ERP, CRM, Accounting and other LOB applications are all being developed with a web front-end and are all becoming cloud-hosted, requiring no infrastructure for the small/medium business."

Stephen's Advice:

"Cloud computing is perfect for a lot of solutions, but it's not perfect for everything," he says. "Take some time to evaluate what you are really trying to achieve and then look at your options to take it to the cloud first. Think cloud first, on-premise second."

Team Zero Prem Inc: Overall Winners!

Gerry Gainford and Jerlson “Jay-R” Alvarez

Challenge:

  1. Eliminate on-prem servers and storage
  2. Create single-sign on with Google Apps
  3. Create self-service password reset
  4. Launch LOB client application from just an icon the user’s local desktop
  5. Access mapped network share from local desktop

Solution:

"We showed how our self-serve password reset and RDS (Remote Desktop Service) connect cloud solution could completely remove all on-premise hardware and move our server and services to the cloud," explains Gerry Gainford. "We moved AD to Azure Directory with ADDS and moved out SQL server and app, and our file server to virtual machines in the cloud. We increased security with Microsoft’s multi-factor authentication and had a single sign-on with Google Apps."

Gerry's Advice:

"The first thing to know is that the cloud is secure," he says. "Really secure. More secure than your on-premise server when it is set up correctly. With the cloud, you have a team of Microsoft’s experts managing the technology 24x7. You can have your servers running on redundant hardware across the globe so that your servers will always be running no matter what. These are in highly secure environments that just cannot be matched on a small business’s budget."

cal net azure hackathon teams

Inspiring Innovation & Creativity

When you get the best and brightest minds in the same room, good things are bound to happen.

"It was great to see the teams dedicate the time to get their hands dirty, learn how the solution works - what’s good and when it makes sense, as well as when it doesn’t," says CTO Randy Nieves, one of the Hack-a-thon judges. "The entire organization is better for it. Congrats to all that participated, as well as the cash prize winners!"

Excited about the future potential the cloud brings to modern business, Gerry Gainford is already looking beyond his win.

“It was fun, a lot of work and a lack of sleep but fun and we learned a lot,” he says. “Azure has a lot of very new features, which may not be quite ready. We do expect them to mature very quickly and to grow in use over the coming months.”

“I enjoyed hearing about the Zero-Prem solution,” admits Stephen Kerr. “I have two clients moving that direction now and it is a challenging solution. There are many ways to skin this cat, and I enjoyed seeing what the other team used to solve their problems.”

SPONSOR SHOUT-OUT: Thank you to Microsoft and SonicWall for making this event possible!

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costs-technology-businesses-reduce

How Businesses Can Use Technology to Reduce Costs

No matter your field, the underlying goal of any business is to make a profit.

This is achieved through various practices, evolutions, and lots of trial and error. One common trend business giants are picking up on is the adoption of new technology. Remaining innovative and staying up-to-date with the times is essential to keeping your brand relevant, but did you know many of these emerging technologies can also save you money?

Whether you’re a large corporation or small business, we’ve broken down a few of the latest and greatest tech developments you can implement to reduce costs.

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Cloud Computing

If you haven’t already, one crucial move you should be making is migrating your organization to the cloud. Beginning with reduced costs for in-house IT staff, cloud computing provides numerous benefits to your business. Because cloud-based software and applications automatically update themselves, the cloud has allowed more businesses to outsource their IT support.

The cloud also gives employees secure access to information on the go, allowing your workforce to be more mobile. This is especially useful for companies with remote workers and work-from-home policies.

On a higher-level, the cloud allows you to have data backups in places that are off-site, just in case your on-site servers are ever compromised by a cyber attack or suffer physical damage. The cloud can have your systems back up and running in hours, not days.

technology-businesses-reduce-costs

Enterprise Content Management

Managing content is a job in itself, especially when you factor in the need for said content to be secure but also available to be used for achieving business goals. Historically, this meant hours of manual data entry, thousands of dollars in printing, and risk of costly mistakes.

With Enterprise Content Management, however, businesses are relieved of these stressors by eliminating manual tasks, cutting overhead costs and reducing paper consumption. Not to mention optimizing company workflow. Implementing ECM allows employees of all levels to quickly organize, track, and edit various company documents, resulting in less time sifting and more time providing efficient service.

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Unified Communications

Being out of the office today doesn't mean what it used to. With unified communication technology, companies are able to communicate with employees across the globe through a variety of different devices. This is allowing businesses to hire and grow without the need for a larger office or increased IT infrastructure.

The ability to teleconference and video chat opens up opportunities for hiring freelancers to fill creative roles, data analytics, and other responsibilities remotely. Flexible communication systems also improve production time by allowing employees to remain in the comfort of their home or local office, saving money on travel, meals, lodging and other excess expenses.

reduce costs businesses technology 5

Chatbots

Recently, chatbots have been the talk of the tech world, demonstrating abilities that have many believing they are the future of customer service. This is due to the fact that they can save your business big bucks without sacrificing quality.

Chatbots help businesses efficiently accomplish tasks that would have otherwise required manual labor while simultaneously reducing the need for service personnel. At present, chatbots can take care of your everyday customer service issues, but as technology continues to advance they’re predicted to do a lot more and that means more savings.

Reducing Costs With A Better IT Strategy

Keeping up to date with technology is essential for all businesses to stay ahead of the competition. If you’re going to use it, you might as well make the most of it. Determining your company needs and the services that will work best for you is the first step of integrating anything new. The initial cost of purchasing the latest tech tools may seem daunting, but keep in mind the long-term savings. Once in place, the results you’ll see following your commitment to technology will undoubtedly show its worth.

About Our Guest Blogger

Sara, Ms. Digital Diva, has 15 years worth of experience working in the tech industry. As a woman in a predominately male field, she likes to think that she offers a unique perspective on the tech/cloud industry’s rapid changes and simultaneous tendency to stay the same.

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CRN 250 Cal Net 2018

Cal Net Named Tech Elite Solution Provider By CRN For Third Straight Year

Los Angeles, CA, March 26, 2018 – Today CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, named Cal Net Technology Group to its 2018 Tech Elite 250 list. This annual list honors an exclusive group of North American IT solution providers that have earned the highest number of advanced technical certifications from leading technology suppliers, scaled to their company size.

To compile the annual list, The Channel Company’s research group and CRN editors work together to identify the most customer-beneficial technical certifications in the North American IT channel. Companies who have obtained these elite designations— which enable solution providers to deliver premium products, services and customer support—are then selected from a pool of online applicants.

“Cal Net’s ability to deliver cutting-edge technology solutions continues to resonate in the ever-changing IT landscape,” said James Hwang, CEO of Cal Net. “The focus in 2017 was on transforming our people, process, and technologies to best position ourselves for growth. I’m confident more than ever that our team at Cal Net is prepared, ready, and deserving of the success that will be accelerated in 2018.”

list Cal Net CRN 250 2018

“Being named to CRN’s Tech Elite 250 list is no small feat,” said Bob Skelley, CEO of The Channel Company. “These companies have distinguished themselves with multiple, top-level IT certifications, specializations and partner program designations from the industry’s most prestigious technology providers. Their pursuit of deep expertise and broader skill sets in a wide range of technologies and IT practices demonstrates an impressive commitment to elevating their businesses—and to providing the best possible customer experience.”

“It’s an honor just to be included on this list of top MSPs for a third consecutive year,” says Cal Net President and CCO Luca Jacobellis. “We’re not only focused on today’s best practices, but what’s on the horizon. That’s why our team is continuously assessing and implementing new technologies, from cloud configurations to collaboration tools, to help our clients achieve sustainable, long-term success.”

 Coverage of the Tech Elite 250 will be featured in the April issue of CRN, and online at www.crn.com/techelite250.

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attack atlanta ransomware

The City Of Atlanta Victimized By Ransomware Attack

Yesterday, the city of Atlanta was victimized by a widespread Ransomware attack.

According to Chief Operating Officer Richard Cox, the outage of internal and customer-facing applications started at 5:40 a.m. Bill-payment applications, including portals to access court information, were compromised by the attack.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is urging city employees as well as members of the general public to pay close attention to their bank accounts and take proactive measures to protect their data.

According to Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA, a city employee sent the station a screenshot of the Ransomware message, in which hackers demanded a $6,800 ransom to unlock each end user's computer, or a $51,000 lump sum to unlock all affected systems.
The city's IT department emailed employees instructing them to unplug their workstations if they noticed anything out of the ordinary.

The Ransomware attack on Atlanta was discovered by the city’s IT security team, which noticed irregular activity on the server.

Authorities Investigating Source Of Ransomware

The city of Atlanta is currently cooperating with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and private cybersecurity providers to determine the root of the Ransomware attack.

When asked if the city would pay a ransom to resolve the problem, Mayor Bottoms said the city would seek guidance from federal authorities on the best course of action.

Experts say the screenshot sent to WXIA closely resembles a message from Samsam, a variant of Ransomware that infected a string of hospitals a little over two years ago. Those cyber attacks exploited a de-serialized Java vulnerability in application servers.

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One of our experts will map out a reliable Ransomware recovery plan and help you identify areas of your IT infrastructure that could be at risk.

 


new tax cuts and jobs act technology

How The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Affects Businesses Purchasing New Technology

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows businesses to write off 100% of the equipment they purchase in 2018. The change, which was retroactively set to September 27, 2017, is incentivizing organizations throughout Southern California to refresh their desktop computers, upgrade their phone systems, migrate their data to a new server, and much, much more.

Instead of stretching depreciation out over years – a requirement of the old tax law – now new purchases can be de-valued from day one.

"This law is a game-changer, and we’re already seeing the impact,” says Luca Jacobellis, President and CCO of Cal Net. "A number of our clients have already started re-investing in their businesses because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to help you grow."

technology-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-new

The “new” write-offs are expanded forms of the bonus depreciations that have been around for years, and while many smaller businesses may have already been receiving 100% deductions under Section 179 of the current tax code, the new law expands protections and opportunities.

The result is a reduction in taxable income by way of a reduction in business income. Take a look at this example of a business owner  who purchases $1,150,000 worth of new equipment this year:

technology-new-tax-and-jobs-act

"Owners on the cusp of the income limit can now re-invest in what their businesses need to reach their full potential, from content management systems and collaboration tools, to firewalls and data back-ups," Luca says.

new-technology-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act

Other changes to business taxes under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:*

  • Lower the corporate income tax rate permanently to 21% starting in 2018.
  • Establish a 20% deduction of qualified business income from certain pass-through businesses. Specific service industries, such as health, law and professional services, are excluded. However, joint filers with income below $315,000 and other filers with income below $157,500 can claim the deduction fully on income from service industries.
  • Allow full and immediate expensing of short-lived capital investments for five years. Increases the section 179 expensing cap from $500,000 to $1 million.
  • Limit the deductibility of net interest expense to 30% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for four years, and 30% of earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) thereafter.
  • Eliminate net operating loss carrybacks and limits carryforwards to 80% of taxable income.
  • Eliminate the domestic production activities deduction (section 199) and modifies other provisions, such as the orphan drug credit and the rehabilitation credit.
  • Enact deemed repatriation of currently deferred foreign profits, at a rate of 15.5% for cash and cash-equivalent profits and 8% for reinvested foreign earnings.
  • Move to a territorial system with base erosion rules.
  • Eliminate the corporate alternative minimum tax.

* Info courtesy of  the Tax Foundation

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Cal Net Tech Group

Cal Net Repeats Elite 150 Status On 2018 CRN MSP 500 List

LOS ANGELES, CA - For the second year in a row, Cal Net Technology Group, the premier provider of Managed IT Services in Southern California, has been honored with Elite 150 status on CRN’s MSP 500 list, which celebrates the most innovative solution providers in the industry.

Cal Net’s proactive approach to managed services and comprehensive technology offerings help small to mid-sized businesses navigate an ever-evolving IT environment, streamline employee workflows, set long-term goals, and improve the overall operational maturity level of their organization.

“In 2017, our focus was on transforming our people, process, and technologies to best position ourselves for our next level of success and growth,” says James Hwang, CEO of Cal Net Technology Group. “I’m more confident now than ever that our team at Cal Net is prepared, ready, and deserving of the successes that will be presented in 2018."

MSPs Help Businesses Grow

As the technology of business progresses, MSPs like Cal Net play a defining role in helping organizations leverage new tools and opportunities, allowing CEOs, Owners, and Entrepreneurs to focus on their true passion: growing their core business.

CRN is a brand of The Channel Company. Their annual MSP 500 list helps prospective partners narrow their outsourced and co-managed IT options by showcasing the most cutting-edge leaders in North America.

“It’s a privilege to be included in this group of elite MSPs for a second consecutive year,” says Cal Net President and CCO Luca Jacobellis. “We’re not only focused on today’s best practices, but what’s on the horizon. That’s why our team is continuously assessing and implementing new technologies, from cloud configurations to collaboration tools, to help our clients achieve sustainable, long-term success.”

CRN MSP 500 Categories

The annual MSP 500 list is divided into three categories: MSP Pioneer 250, recognizing companies with business models largely focused on the SMB market; MSP Elite 150, recognizing larger MSPs with a mix of on-premises and off-premises services; and the Managed Security 100, recognizing MSPs focused primarily on off-premise, cloud-based security services.

Since 1995, Cal Net has built an award-winning reputation on equipping clients with the right kind of technology, guidance, and support they need to reach their full potential. With locations in Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Inland Empire, the company offers Southern Californian businesses an extensive set of technology capabilities and a standardized customer experience framework that creates transparency in the partnership. Through this, Cal Net ensures that if they promise something, they deliver.

The MSP 500 list is featured in the February 2018 issue of CRN and available online at http://www.crn.com/msp500.

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About Cal Net Technology Group

Cal Net Technology Group specializes in IT outsourcing, consulting, and managed services for small to mid-sized businesses across Southern California. Delivering a unique brand of outsourced and co-managed services to over 700 organizations, the company’s three-tiered Cal Plans set them apart by delivering an entire IT department experience at a fraction of the cost. Cal Net’s approach to Managed Services allows clients with existing IT staff to augment their skills in areas where they may need additional assistance. The process begins with a free assessment of an organization's technology infrastructure, from network security and data backups, to cloud configurations, unified communications, and enterprise content management.

 

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