OGN! Lets take it From the Top

With the Quarantine dragging on and the days and the weekends melding into one long stretch, I have been thinking a lot about how lucky I am and how lucky I am to have such incredible clients. I know there is a lot of loss and suffering including lost jobs, lost business, lost health and life, and food insecurity to name just a few. It is hard to stay focused each day and stay positive. So I’m launching OGN, Operation Good News! With 17 years in business and lots of incredible clients and experiences, I have some things I’d like to share!

The first client I’d like to profile is From the Top. I was first introduced to From the Top in 2007 through a relationship I had with Kevin Marren, a salesperson from Thrive Networks. These were the early days of Mantra Computing and there were only 3 of us on staff.  Any new business was good business and Kevin was a life line. At the time Thrive was so busy with work that they kept throwing us any business they didn’t want. We were happy to take it.

From the Top had suffered some technology challenges including a crashed server and lost emails.  From our first meeting I knew we could help them and get them back on firm ground. These days many of us take rock solid email, contact and calendaring for granted with offerings like Office 365 or G Suite.  But back then we actually had to stand up our own solutions! Also, From the Top was a mostly Mac operation and Mantra Computing was one of the few shops in the area with deep Mac knowledge operating within Windows network environments.

I knew From the Top produced an NPR radio show but I didn’t understand the scope of their work. The show is just the tip of the iceberg! They find extraordinary kids from all over the country, mentor them, give them opportunities to learn from professionals and then perform on a national platform on the radio, online and in theaters!

I’ve been to several From the Top shows, and the quality of the production and the talent of these children is really mind blowing. When you see these kids come on stage and perform, it would be easy to feel excluded or put off. The subject matter can feel inaccessible to many of us, not being familiar with classical music and its etiquette. Also, these kids are so talented and have spent so much time learning the subject that their performances seem superhuman. But that is the magic! Instead of walking away feeling left out or overwhelmed, you feel inspired, awed and included.

I remember at age 15, traveling on a summer bike trip, our group was invited to attend a classical performance. Can you imagine a bunch of smelly 15 year olds, who’d been biking for 2 weeks and sleeping in tents, being led into a theater? Truthfully, we were dubious and the surrounding audience didn’t look too pleased either. But the performance began and it was incredible. After the first movement we all clapped enthusiastically.  It seemed like everyone was moved like I was. But then after the second movement, we all clapped enthusiastically again! We were quickly shunned by the surrounding guests. We learned you do not clap between movements. I can only speak for myself, but after that shaming, it was very hard to enjoy the rest of the show. And I have carried that experience with me to this day and still feel some anxiety when I try to enjoy a classical performance. I’m always worried about what I’m doing wrong and what I may be missing.

From the Top offers an opportunity for young people that is opposite from my summer bike trip experience. They find ways to engage and amaze the audience, who are often young people elementary to high school age.  Their mission is to celebrate the power of music through the hands and eyes of a broad and young audience. When you’re there, you know something special is happening. I took my kids and walked away with a memory that I hope they will reflect on positively when they become adults.

Right now, the Quarantine presents a huge financial and operational challenge for cultural institutions, especially performance driven ones. From the Top specifically is limited in their ability to pursue their education and performance activities, which they rely heavily on for funding and donations. During this time of Quarantine, in addition to the support we give to essential workers, social and charity organizations, we all need to step up and make an additional effort to support our critical cultural institutions. If we don’t, we stand to loose them and all the beauty they bring to our lives. While the government relief funds are targeted at keeping the economy open and supporting critical businesses and institutions like hospitals, there is no special carve out for cultural institutions.

Please consider making a donation today to your favorite cultural institution. If you’re looking for a worthy organization, please check out From the Top. I’ve provided links about From the Top below, their online content and how to make a donation. They’re actively seeking and need the support to keep their programs running.

Daily Joy: https://www.fromthetop.org/landing_page/from-the-top-daily-joy/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/fromthetop
Donate to From the Top Now

Introducing Ihloom! (pronounced illume, as in illuminate)

As you may have noticed, it has been over 2 years since I last posted! Honestly, the time has flown by so fast that I really didn’t think it had been that long. But there is good reason! My team and I have been busy working on a new project. And given the current craziness surrounding the Coronavirus, I thought, now is a good time to sit down and post and let everyone know what we’ve been up to!

In 2013 I read an article, referenced here, about how Facebook identified a zero-day Java exploit on one of its engineer’s laptops by monitoring Internet traffic and that hackers were using it to communicate with their servers to steal data.  Running an IT consulting and managed service firm, this article freaked me out.  I thought, if this ever happened to one of my clients, how could they possibly be expected to detect and survive an attack like this? Facebook and its large dedicated data security team found a needle in a haystack.  But this needle would not be hard for cyber criminals to place wherever they wanted and most organization would have no way of knowing about it.

A lot has changed since 2013, and there are tons of new cybersecurity products on the market. Many of them leveraging artificial intelligence to try and fill the gap identified in that 2013 article to help security teams find the needle in the haystack. But a critical problem still remains with all these products.  What do you do if you get an alert!  All cybersecurity product block the most egregious offenders, but things that are just not normal or look suspicious get flags and alerts.  Someone must evaluate the alert, determine if the alert is suspicious and develop and action plan to mitigate the risk or compromise.

The truth was, we were doing the best we could and followed all the best practices for an IT consulting business, but we could not effectively protect our clients from evolving and real threats.  We also did not have the resources to monitor and respond to changing risks.  We needed help like most small and medium businesses.

And so we embarked on a 2 plus year journey learning, testing and training on all the latest security solutions.  We trialled many platforms and actually put the slick marketing to the test.  We developed a backend and an organization to drive and support these products.  Today, Ihloom is protecting over 1,600 endpoints and over a 100 different organizations.  We have identified and mitigated more than 5 serious cyber attacks in the last year saving our clients from real losses and business disruptions.

If you want to get your organization secure and compliant, Ihloom can help.  What differentiates Ihoom are real, practical, vetted solutions and the knowledgeable staff and knowhow to get businesses secure. Putting a solution like this together takes time, hard work and experience and we’re proud of the outcome.