[Webinar] Outsourcing Cloud Data Services

Is Outsourcing Cloud Data Services Right for You?

The IT landscape is being transformed by increasing regulatory burdens, consumer expectations of data security and reliance on data availability for service delivery. In our recent webinar with the Disaster Recovery Journal, Brandon Tanner, Rentsys senior manager, discussed how IT challenges are affecting highly regulated organizations.

With these challenges, is outsourcing cloud data services a good move for regulated businesses? For some, it is. In the webinar, Paul Arguinchona, CIO for Frontier Behavioral Health (FBH), a nonprofit provider of behavioral health services, explains how his organization has leveraged outsourced cloud data services to fulfill FBH’s mission and values.

To see what Brandon and Paul had to say, view the webinar on demand.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Is Your Data Secure?

In 2016, 77 percent of all breaches were caused by insiders. As more employees use their own devices for handling sensitive data, that risk will only go up. To see how bring your own device (BYOD) is contributing to data security risks, check out this infographic by Commvault (download the full version here):

"Is Your Data Secure?" Infographic


To learn more about creating a secure BYOD policy, read this post.

What You Can Do to Help Wildfire Victims

Map showing large fires in Washington, Oregon and California
ArcGIS Northwest Large Fire Interactive Map (Current As of 9.18.17)
While Texas and Florida have been dealing with catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the West Coast has been dealing with the worst wildfire seasons in the U.S. So far, over 8 million acres have been burned, with 2 million currently in flames. In some areas, including Portland, OR, public health authorities are recommending that people stay inside because the air quality is so poor.

To see how you can help some of the affected states, visit the links below :



Do you know of more ways to help? Let us know in the comments. 

Why FIs Need Resilient Call Centers in a Self-Service World


Call center employee with money
In a survey, 71 percent of consumers said they would use entirely computer-generated support for financial services. With the majority of consumers preferring self-service options, should your financial institution (FI) still prioritize traditional service delivery methods, including calls, in your business continuity program? In short, the answer is yes.

Here are two reasons you should.

Customers Prefer Phone Calls for Certain Situations


Self-service solutions work for everyday transactions, but customers still pick up the phone when they’re in the research phase of a major financial decision. For example, 65 percent of people are more likely to take out a loan from an institution they had spoken on the phone with. That number jumps to 73 percent for loans of $100,000 or more. In other cases, customers prefer to pick up the phone to get a quick answer without having to fill out a web form or to discuss a complex situation.

Paying attention to the wants and needs of consumers is crucial as customer loyalty drops. If your call center experiences an extended outage and you’re not available by phone when a customer needs you, they won’t hesitate to do business with a different organization.

There Are Compliance Requirements for Call Center Availability


In many cases, the accessibility of phone service is tied to compliance. The FFIEC, for example, requires FIs to perform vulnerability assessments for critical support areas and interdependencies such as telecommunications. It also stipulates that the backup site should mirror operational functionality, including call centers. To ensure the business continuity plan works in practice and not just on paper, the FFIEC recommends stress testing critical functions that might experience increased customer volume during a crisis. These functions include online banking, phone-based banking, ATMs and, of course, call centers.

If phone calls precede large transactions, that’s all the more reason to ensure you have agents ready to assist customers.  

To learn more about why call center resilience is important, join us in Phoenix, AZ at the DRJ Fall World Conference for Solutions Track 7 on Sunday, September 17. 

A Quick List of Hurricane Irma Resources

In August, Texas was faced with the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, and now Florida is feeling the sting of Hurricane Irma. Already we’ve seen the community rally together to help those impacted by Harvey. We’re optimistic that we’ll see a similar response to Irma.

Google Crisis Response map of Florida
Google Crisis Response Map
 Whether you’ve been affected by Irma or looking for ways to help, here are some useful resources:

  • Airbnb — Locate a place to stay or open your home up to someone in need.
  • Federal Trade Commission — Get tips for avoiding scams when donating to relief efforts.
  • FEMA — Find a list of surrounding shelters that haven’t reached capacity by downloading the FEMA app or texting SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA). Avoid falling victim to misinformation and scams by visiting the Rumor Control page.
  • Google Crisis Response — Locate shelters, gas stations, evacuation routes and traffic patterns.
  • LifeSouth or American Red Cross — Find a blood drive near you.
  • Waze — Check for closed roads and accidents.
To get a peek at how communities and businesses are working toward recovery in the wake of Harvey and Irma, check out our ongoing storm coverage.  

[INFOGRAPHIC] From the Board Room to the Break Room

Every business has different priorities and challenges, but one thing all businesses have in common is the need for cybersecurity. While people tend to point the finger at hackers for security breaches, human error is one of the top causes. Unfortunately, there’s often a breakdown in communication between top-level executives and end users when it comes to basic security hygiene, which increases an organization's chance of a cyber attack. This infographic by Delta Risk offers practical tips for creating a culture of security within your business.


"From the Board Room to the Break Room" Infographic


For more information on how prioritizing cybersecurity helps your business, read our post “How Can Cybersecurity Help Grow Your Business?

In the News: Helping Flooded Businesses Get Back on Their Feet

Video still of Steve O'Neal speaking to Kathleen Witte
Steve O'Neal, Rentsys account executive, speaks to KBTX's Kathleen Witte.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and its catastrophic flooding, countless businesses are striving to get back on their feet. Business owners need to get back to serving their communities and customers. Employees need their next paychecks so they can start their families’ personal recoveries. Everyone affected by the storm just wants to get back to normal as soon as possible. Our goal is to help businesses do just that.

KBTX, a news outlet in College Station, TX, stopped by our headquarters yesterday to get a behind-the-scenes look at our Hurricane Harvey response efforts. To watch the video, visit KBTX's website.


Hurricane Harvey: How to Get Help or Get Involved

Over the weekend, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, making it one of the worst disasters in Texas history. As Harvey lingers, the threat is still present. FEMA is predicting 30,000 people will be driven to shelters.

#HarveyRELIEF Map
#HarveyRELIEF Map


Whether you and your family have been affected by Harvey and need assistance or you're looking for ways to get involved in relief efforts, here are some helpful resources:

Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Harvey. If you know of additional opportunities to help, please let us know in the comments. 

Don’t Forget the Human Side of Business Continuity

Man grieving over destroyed house
When Hurricane Katrina struck, it left entire cities along the Gulf Coast devastated. Those who hadn’t evacuated were forced to find food when groceries and restaurants were closed, a cool place to sit when the AC was out in the sweltering South, and a place to bathe when there was limited to no running water. What are the odds of successfully implementing your business continuity plan after that? Surely employees aren’t going to work under those conditions, right? Not so for the employees of a bank branch in Pascagoula, MS.

The company’s building had flooded, so it had a Mobile Banking Center deployed. Employees showed up to work to help customers cash their FEMA checks. This service was critical to a community in need, and the branch was the only place in town providing it. The employees even brought their families to work to take advantage of the air-conditioned space. When your business experiences a regional disaster, how do you activate your business continuity plan if your employees are busy dealing with their own personal emergencies? Should you expect them to come to work? The human element of business continuity can’t be ignored.

To ensure your business continuity plan is compatible with your employees’ and community’s needs, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

Community

  • Which of your services do they value most?
  • How can you help during a crisis?
  • Will you help a community in crisis even if your business is not in crisis?
  • If yes, what would that look like?

Employees

  • Which of your services do they value most?
  • How far are they willing to drive or wait to get this service if your community is in crisis?
  • How long would they wait for the service before they went to a different company?
  • Do they have any family who would be impacted as well?

The ideal business continuity plan will merge the goals of the business, community and employees to create a situation in which everybody wins. The bank in Pascagoula was able to successfully implement its business continuity strategy during a massive catastrophe because its business continuity planners weren’t just focused on the business’s goals — they knew what the bank’s employees and community needed and found a way to meet those needs. Employees were happy to come to work because they knew they were providing their neighbors with a critical service and offering a sense of stability in the midst of a volatile time. The bank was able to keep its doors open, the community received desperately needed FEMA money, and employees didn’t have to neglect their families to perform their duties.

Does your business continuity plan accomplish your goals as well as those of your employees and your community? Let us know in the comments.

This Underutilized Group Could Save Your Business in a Crisis

Disaster team discussion circle
Over 30 years ago, Union Carbide, a U.S.-owned pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked 40-plus tons of a poisonous gas into the surrounding region, killing at least 3,800 people in their sleep and producing deleterious environmental effects. The incident — the worst industrial accident in history — led to the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986.

As part of this act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to help local communities improve their ability to respond to chemical emergencies. LEPCs require facilities to submit inventories of hazardous chemicals and develop emergency response plans in collaboration with local law enforcement, city officials and members of the media. Throughout the U.S., there are more than 3,000 LEPCs for each of the designated local emergency planning districts, which are determined by city or county boundaries.

Even if your business doesn’t deal with hazardous materials, though, don’t write off LEPCs as a valuable resource for your crisis response efforts. Here are three reasons to join your local LEPC.

LEPCs Aren’t Just for Chemical Plants Anymore


Although LEPCs were initially created to help reduce risks associated with toxic chemicals, many LEPCs are taking an all-hazards approach and addressing scenarios such as active shooter incidents. Involving local first responders in drills benefits both sides by opening the lines of communication, clarifying each party’s roles and ironing out wrinkles in the response strategy.

For example, one financial services company had a local SWAT team participate in an active shooter scenario involving over 60 victims. During the drill, the shooter took 15 employees as hostages and barricaded himself in a room. The organization has three individuals trained in hostage negotiations, so the drill gave these staff members the opportunity to practice their skills. Throughout the exercise, the SWAT team sat side by side with the negotiators and trained them.

The organization also worked with the police force’s IT team to link the station’s video cameras to the business’s system so live video could be broadcast to a command center. This integration allows the police force to assess events in real time when necessary. There are also plans to look into feeding video into the responding patrol cars so the police know what to expect as soon as they arrive on a scene.

Working in conjunction with local law enforcement to prepare for an emergency will not only improve your business’s crisis response plan, but it'll also help first responders do their jobs better since they’ll be familiar with your facility and plan.

Engaging the Community Builds Reputation Currency


When a crisis impacts your company, it’s critical to gain control of how your employees, customers, community, investors and regulators perceive the situation. To do so, it’s important to have an established reputation and demonstrate that you prioritize your community’s well-being. Joining your local LEPC is a visible way for your company to both gain reputation benefits and help the community.

Through attending LEPC meetings, you create critical relationships with first responders and even members of the media. If an event affects your facility, LEPC members will gladly state that your company was actively participating in the group to better the community and can provide letters of reference when auditors come calling. Good press at a bad time is crucial to protecting your reputation during a crisis.

But joining an LEPC doesn’t — and shouldn’t — benefit your company alone. In College Station, TX, where our headquarters is located, one of our staff members participates in the Brazos County LEPC. Thanks to the efforts of individuals representing several companies, the group recently received a $100,000 grant to purchase special firefighting equipment.

Getting involved in your local LEPC will expose you to countless opportunities for corporate social responsibility initiatives. The EPA, in fact, encourages community outreach by “empowering volunteers to create meaningful tasks,” such as providing local schools and nursing facilities with educational materials about emergency preparedness topics. LEPCs are intended to include not only first responders but also representatives from a range of demographics, organizations and community groups, so networking within LEPCs helps you develop an in-depth understanding of your community’s needs.

LEPCs Foster Public-Private Collaboration


For years, public and private entities have lamented the lack of collaboration when it comes to emergency preparedness. LEPCs pave the way for cross-sector partnerships. To develop a relationship with local first responders and the city officials, encourage your staff members to participate in LEPC meetings and public-sector exercises. When involving first responders in your own drills, prioritize making the event mutually beneficial by offering first responders the opportunity to practice processes and procedures of their own. The aforementioned financial services organization, for example, tested its local police department’s new inventory system.

Unfortunately, many LEPCs are now dormant or nonexistent. They work independently and are loosely connected through the EPA region liaisons, meaning the activity level and quality of each varies greatly. Because they don’t get the press they should, they tend to stay below the radar. We would like to see that change.

To jumpstart your crisis response strategy and improve your reputation, take advantage of these resources:
  • Find your local LEPC here.
  • If you’re already involved with your local LEPC, check out the EPA’s guide for energizing your LEPC.
  • Listen to this webinar for more information on why it’s important to involve the community in your crisis response efforts.
Taking the time to participate in a local LEPC will take time and commitment, but the long-term benefits to your business and the community where you live and work will be well worth the effort.

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